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.

195 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Monday,

    Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. But it’s great that you immediately started HIV treatment (ART).

    However, we are not doctors at i-Base. So it’s important that you see the doctor about the swelling.

    What HIV meds are you taking? And do you have access to your CD4 count and viral load results?

    Please let us know.

    Here’s the guide to starting ART.

  2. Monday

    I was tested positive, and immediately started treatment, and now I discovered swelling in some of my body,please what can I do,

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Dominic,

    Sorry, i-Base doesn’t have resources to answer more questions about transmission and testing. But all previous answers can be found here.

  4. Dominic

    Hi am Dominic just had a unprotected sex this morning and the lady said she’s HIV positive after sex. How long do I have to live?

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Cairo,

    If could be that your CD4 has fallen. You’re going to need to talk to a doctor about this. They should test your CD4, this will tell how you’re doing HIV wise. Yes you can restart medication, however you’ll need to discuss this with a doctor.

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