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.

117 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi S Dream,
    It’s great that you have a strong CD4 count. But your viral load is still detectable. Have you talked to the clinic about it? Guidelines now recommend that everyone who is HIV positive considers starting meds, even if their CD4 count is below 50. That’s because HIV might be causing inflammation that could be bad for overall health.

  2. S Dream

    I am already 22 years HIV with no use any medicine in all and still 4000 copies/ml and 650 CD4… How?

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Sentle,
    Have you talked to the doctor about your CD4 and viral load results? Your CD4 count will tell you how strong your immune system is. And your viral load will measure how much HIV you have in your blood. Guidelines now recommend that HIV treatment (ART) starts at any CD4 count. This can benefit your overall health. Here’s an introduction to ART.

  4. sentle

    I hv tested HIV positive in 2016 BT HVNT STARTED TREATMENT TILL. .AM I AT RISK

  5. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Shella,
    Here’s a link to questions about starting HIV treatment (ART). Being on ART can benefit health generally. The START study provided much of the evidence on the benefits of starting ART at any CD4 count.

  6. Shella

    I was tested positive in june 2017 but havnt started treatment till date.am i at risk?

  7. Roy Trevelion

    Dear Lawrence,
    Thank you for your comment. I hope you don’t mind it was a bit long so I’ve edited it down a bit. I’m sorry that you lost both your parents at such a young age. But it’s good to know you had a happy childhood.

    It’s great that your viral load is now undetectable. And good too that you have support from your siblings.

    Do you have liver problems? If you do you can talk to the doctor about whether Cotrimoxazole can affect your liver. However, taking this antibiotic can help reduce risk of infections if you have a low CD4 count. So finding out about your CD4 count can help you and your doctor decide whether you can stop Cotri.

    In answer to your questions:

    1.Can I start body building? Yes, Charlotte has already answered this question here.

    2.Can I discontinue taking cotri? This is a good question for your doctor, as above.

    3.Can I get a corrective operation on my eye? People who are HIV positive and on ART now have many successful operations, including organ transplants.

    4.Will I ever get married without being judged? There are many questions on this subject, including about having children. Please see them here.

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