Nowadays, people with HIV can have a normal lifespan, and people diagnosed with AIDS can recover thanks to ARVs (although an AIDS diagnosis is still permanent in all cases). A person who has been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is diagnosed with AIDS after developing one of the diseases that the Centers for Disease Control identified as an indicator of AIDS. An HIV-positive person who has not had any serious illnesses may also receive an AIDS diagnosis based on certain blood tests (CD4+ levels). It has been more than 30 years since a disease that is now called AIDS was first detected in the United States.
Back then, it was considered a death sentence. There were no treatments available, the cause was unknown, and people often died within a few months of diagnosis. Nowadays, people who are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can live a full, healthy life, due in large part to medicines and other discoveries made with NIH support. Many people with HIV have physical disabilities that make them unable to work.
If they have had the disabilities for 12 months, the SSA can decide that they have a disability. At one time, a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS was considered a death sentence. Thanks to research and the development of new treatments, people with HIV now live long, productive lives at every stage. An HIV-positive person who follows regular antiretroviral treatment can expect a nearly normal lifespan.
Some people die shortly after infection, while others live relatively normal lives for many years, even after AIDS is officially diagnosed. The ADA views HIV and AIDS as disabilities that significantly impede one or more life activities, regardless of whether a person has symptoms or not. The SSA may also regard people with HIV or AIDS as disabled, as a result of which they receive benefits in the form of a monthly income. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of resources for people with HIV or AIDS.
People with AIDS can have a range of symptoms as their weakened immune systems put them at risk for life-threatening infections and cancers. For example, a dentist cannot refuse treatment for a person with HIV or AIDS, and a gym cannot limit the hours a person with HIV or AIDS can use the facilities. While HIV is a virus that can cause an infection, AIDS (short for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a condition. The ADA regards HIV and AIDS as a disability for anyone with any of the conditions, but the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not.
Because a person with HIV or AIDS has impaired immunity, the ADA considers the conditions as disabilities, even if people have no symptoms.