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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), once thought to be untreatable and tantamount to a terminal illness, is now a manageable condition for many people. HIV-positive individuals who start treatment early now have life expectancies similar to the general population. But HIV affects each person differently; some may not have access to proper treatments, while others may have begun treatment too late to reap its full benefits. HIV can also seriously compromise an individual’s ability to maintain meaningful work; if you are unable to work due to an HIV infection, a Baltimore disability attorney can help you apply for Social Security disability benefits.  

What Is HIV? 

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system and interferes with its ability to fight infection and disease. It can be spread through sexual contact with an infected person, by contact with the blood of an infected person, and from mother to child during pregnancy. HIV progresses in three stages, each with the following symptoms

  • Stage I (Acute HIV Infection): Some (but not all) individuals experience flu-like symptoms within two to four weeks after infection. These include fever, headache, muscle and joint pain, rash, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, weight loss, and cough. Stage I HIV infection generally lasts for several weeks, during which time the infected individual is highly contagious. 
  • Stage II (Chronic HIV Infection): During this time, the virus is still present in the body, but many individuals experience no symptoms. Stage II HIV infection can last for many years. While the infected individual’s viral load is low during this time, the virus is still transmittable.  
  • Stage III (AIDS): AIDS is the third and most severe phase of HIV infection and occurs after the immune system has been severely damaged. The symptoms of AIDS resemble those of Stage I HIV but tend to be accompanied by rashes, sores, and ulcers. 

While HIV is generally a manageable condition so long as treatment is begun early, any condition that compromises the immune system puts the sufferer at greater risk of complications. HIV-positive individuals may experience pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, toxoplasmosis, wasting syndrome, kidney disease, liver disease, and certain types of cancer

Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits with HIV

Individuals with HIV are eligible for Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for benefits for HIV, the Social Security Administration Blue Book requires at least one of the following conditions (in addition to documentation of HIV infection): 

  • Multicentric Castleman disease
  • Primary central nervous system lymphoma 
  • Primary effusion lymphoma
  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy
  • Pulmonary Kaposi sarcoma
  • Absolute CD4 count of 50 cells/mm3 or less
  • Absolute CD4 count of fewer than 200 cells/mm3 or CD4 percentage of less than 14 percent and (1) BMI measurement of less than 18.5, or (2) Hemoglobin measurement of fewer than 8.0 grams per deciliter
  • Complication(s) of HIV infection requires at least three hospitalizations within a 12-month period and at least 30 days apart
  • Repeated manifestations of HIV infection are accompanied by (1) limitation of activities of daily living, (2) limitations in maintaining social functioning, or (3) limitations in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace. 

If You Have HIV, Contact a Baltimore Disability Attorney for Help With Applying for Benefits  

If you suffer HIV or a complication thereof that affects your ability to maintain employment, you may qualify for disability benefits. For more information, please contact Baltimore disability attorney Emmett B. Irwin by calling 443-839-0818 or using our online contact form.