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HIV and AIDS are SSD-eligible disabilities

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) one out of every five people are unaware that they are infected with the HIV virus. The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) urges all individuals to be tested for the virus, which can lead to AIDS.

Learning that you have the HIV virus is no longer a death sentence. However, it is important to get treatment quickly to slow the progression to AIDS. Full-blown aids can weaken a patient's immune system to the point where it is no longer able to fight off opportunistic illnesses that include cancer and bacterial, viral, fungal and yeast infections.

The demographics of HIV have changed over the years. It was once a disease of young, white men who were gay.. Today, one in seven new cases of HIV or AIDS occurs in people over age 50. Latino and African-American youth represent a significant number of new HIV cases. Straight men and women are also increasingly among new cases of HIV or AIDS.

Antiretroviral drugs are used to prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS. However, people who are unaware of their HIV status are at risk -for having untreated HIV that progresses to AIDS, for contracting hepatitis and other bacterial and viral diseases, and for passing the HIV virus on to others.

Despite the existence of drugs that can slow the progression of HIV, people with the virus can become disabled and unable to work. The Social Security Administration recognizes HIV/AIDS as a disabling condition that could qualify an individual for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.

Qualifying for SSD benefits because of HIV or AIDS requires the applicant to show that: they have one of the persistent bacterial, fungal, protozoan or viral infections listed in the SSD "Blue Book," or have certain types of cancer, skin condition, encephalopathy, wasting syndrome, diarrhea that requires intravenous or tube feeding, or certain drug-resistant infections.

It is not enough to have a documented diagnosis of one of the HIV-related listed conditions. Individuals who can document these diagnoses must also show that the condition leaves them unable to work and thus eligible for SSD benefits. For information about obtaining SSD benefits for HIV/AIDS, contact a disability specialist such as those at Binder & Binder®, the national Social Security Disability advocates.

Source: The Commercial Appeal, "Healthy Memphis: HIV testing, treatment remain important 30 years on," June 18, 2012.

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