Gloria Reuben first started grappling with HIV issues as part of her role on ER, as physician assistant Jeanie Boulet, one of the first openly HIV-positive characters on prime-time TV. But soon, the scripts began to take over her off-duty thoughts. “It follows you around wherever you go,” says Reuben, who was on the ER set until 1999. And when she accepted an invitation to a fundraiser from the late Elizabeth Glaser, she stepped into a new role as an AIDS activist.
This past July, Reuben, who now...
“Immunodeficiency” means the systems that fight illnesses in your body either aren’t working or aren’t there.
Your immune system has cells called CD4 or T cells that help keep you healthy. HIV attacks these cells. The virus copies itself over and over, and the number of CD4 cells in your body goes down. This makes it hard for your body to protect itself from germs.
AIDS stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.” HIV can become this disease if it’s not treated.
More than 1.2 million people in the U.S. have an HIV infection. Nearly 27,000 have AIDS. It's the third, and most advanced stage of the infection.
When you have HIV, your doctor will watch the amount of the virus in your system. You may hear this amount called your “viral load.” Two things will tell your doctor if it has become AIDS:
Your CD4 count. A healthy immune system has a CD4 count of 500 to 1,600. A person with AIDS has a CD4 count below 200.
AIDS-defining infections. These can worsen your HIV. They’re called also called opportunistic infections. Viruses or bacteria that don’t usually make healthy people sick can cause them in someone with HIV.