Q and A

Question

How long can I live without HIV drugs?

Can you please tell me how long can someone live without taking HIV medication?

Answer

The best way to answer this is to say that modern HIV treatment (ART) means that life expectancy is not affected by being HIV positive. HIV positive people with access to treatment can be expected to live as long as before they became positive.

Without using HIV treatment, life expectancy is related to how quickly your CD4 count drops and how low it gets.

Without treatment, some people see their CD4 count drop to under 200 within a few years of infection, while others people can go for  5-10 years or longer before they need treatment.

See also: Your CD4 count and the risk of becoming ill.

This is different to saying how long you could live. However, without treatment, once your CD4 count falls below 200 life expectancy drops very dramatically.

Note: This answer was updated in January 2017 from a question first posted in November 2011.

141 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Barry,

    Many thanks for telling us your story. It’s great that you’ve never been on HIV treatment (ART) and that, presumably, you’ve not been seriously ill. It’s true that a very small number of HIV positive people have immune responses that can control HIV. But for most, HIV causes drastic damage to the immune system.

    Because stigma around HIV still exists, many people find being positive a stressful thing. I’m speaking as someone who is HIV positive, and so I know.

    But for many of us starting ART has meant a life expectancy similar to someone who is HIV negative. Today many HIV positive people on ART don’t get seriously ill. And we can also have great and happy lives.

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