What Are the AIDS Defining Illnesses?

A List of AIDS Defining Conditions from the CDC

HIV virus in the bloodstream
HIV virus in the bloodstream. Iam Cuming/Ikon Images/Getty Images

What is AIDS?

AIDS is different from HIV and is defined when a person infected with HIV has one of the following:

  • CD4 count that is less than 200
  • an AIDS defining illness

What Are the AIDS Defining Illnesses?

If a person with HIV develops an AIDS defining illness, they are diagnosed with AIDS, even if their CD4 count is higher than 200. AIDS-defining illnesses are dangerous and life-threatening conditions in people infected with HIV.

They are comprised of certain infections in the body and certain cancers — many of them are quite rare. 

Keep in mind that these diseases can occur in people without HIV infection, however such a person would not be classified as having AIDS.

AIDS defining illnesses according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, include:

  • Isosporiasis, chronic intestinal for more than 1 month duration
  • Kaposi's sarcoma (KS)
  • Lymphoid interstitial pneumonia or pulmonary lymphoid hyperplasia complex
  • Burkitt Lymphoma (or equivalent term)
  • Immunoblastic Lymphoma ( or equivalent term)
  • Primary Lymphoma of the Brain
  • Mycobacterium avium complex or Mycobacterium kansasii, disseminated or outside the lung

What Can I Do?

If you have HIV, seeing an HIV specialist, starting HIV medications early, and getting your CD4 counts regularly — as doctors will start preventive medications for some infections at certain CD4 levels — is critical for your HIV health and for preventing these serious aids-defining conditions. 

Precautions like proper hand hygiene, vaccinations, pet safety, and travel safety are also things a person with HIV should discuss with their doctor to prevent infections. 

It's important to remember that most people with AIDS die from the infections and cancers associated with the virus and not the virus itself.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Dec 5th 2008). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: AIDS-Defining Conditions. Retrieved October 7th 2015. 

UCSF HIVInSite. (2011). Opportunistic Infections and AIDS-Related Cancers. Retrieved October 7th 2015. 

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