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How HIV-suppressing drugs affect SSD eligibility

On Behalf of | Feb 21, 2024 | Social Security Disability Benefits

HIV viral suppression drugs can reduce the viral load in people’s bodies to undetectable levels, meaning that the virus is not detectable in their blood with standard tests. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, over 50% of those living with HIV use antiretroviral therapy drugs.

These medicines have been a game-changer in managing HIV and AIDS, significantly decreasing transmission rates and fatalities. However, do they affect eligibility for Social Security disability benefits?

Eligibility for Social Security disability benefits

The severity of a person’s condition and its impact on their ability to work are factors that determine eligibility for Social Security disability benefits. The Social Security Administration considers HIV/AIDS to be a disabling condition if it meets certain criteria, regardless of viral load. The key factors in determining eligibility are the presence of specific symptoms or complications that limit a person’s job performance.

Impact of being undetectable on disability benefits

If antiretroviral therapy drugs control patients’ HIV and they have no symptoms or complications that impact their professional lives, they may not meet the criteria for disability benefits. However, those taking virus-suppressing medicines may experience the following side effects:

  • Headache
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Insomnia
  • Rash
  • Pain

If these side effects interfere with functioning in daily life, the person taking the drugs may still be eligible for benefits.

The SSA evaluates each case individually, considering the impact of the condition on the person’s ability to function in a work environment. Being undetectable does not disqualify someone from receiving disability benefits, but it is one of many factors considered in the evaluation process.

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