Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) & Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

A. Definition
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It is a retrovirus that spreads via body fluid exchanges. HIV attacks the immune system cells in its host, which reduces the host’s ability to fight infections and correlates to an increased risk of cancer. HIV is considered a global pandemic, with approximately 35.3 million people infected worldwide.

B. General Information
HIV infection has three main stages, starting with acute infection, followed by clinical latency, and later developing into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

The acute infection stage is the period immediately following contraction of the virus. Common symptoms at this stage are fever, fatigue, sore throat, and other flu-like symptoms. Some individuals may experience more significant symptoms such as peripheral neuropathy and even Guillain–Barré syndrome. The acute infection stage generally lasts only for a week or two.

Following the acute infection stage is clinical latency. Typically, few or no symptoms are experienced during this period of time. Highly variable, this stage can last anywhere from 3 to over 20 years. Most people, in the absence of treatment, will continue to progress to meet AIDS criteria.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the last of the three stages and is defined either by a specific immune cell count or co-occurrence of other specific diseases in association with the HIV infection. Because the immune system is so compromised, conditions not generally seen in individuals with healthy immune systems may present themselves. These are generally termed, “opportunistic infections.” Individuals who have progressed into AIDS classification also commonly experience prolonged fever, chills, weakness, cachexia or HIV wasting syndrome, and gastrointestinal distress.

C. Social Security Medical Listing 14.08 – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection
If your HIV infection prevents you from sustaining full time work for a year or more, then you may qualify for Social Security Administration disability benefits. Under Social Security Medical Listing 14.08, you may be found disabled if you have a documented HIV infection comorbid with certain opportunistic infections, or malignant neoplasms (cancers). Medical Listing 14.08 also includes guidance for evaluating extensive fungating or ulcerating lesions in the context of HIV infection, as well as HIV encephalopathy, HIV wasting syndrome, chronic diarrhea, and the cumulative effects of the disease process on your ability to perform activities of daily living, maintain social functioning, and complete tasks in a timely manner.

Your representative can help you determine whether your HIV infection has reached the level of severity necessary to qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Administration.