Q and A


How long can someone live with HIV?

How long can a man live with HIV if he was around 18 years old and was healthy when he was infected, both with and without medication?


Modern HIV drugs mean that life expectancy is now similar for HIV positive people to the general population.

This is based on being diagnosed early and having access to treatment.

The wide range of factors related to life expectancy include: where you live, your income, access to health care, lifestyle (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, exercise and diet) and other infections like hepatitis, genetics and chance – good or bad luck.

Several large studies have been published showing that life expectancy for HIV positive people is very good, and near to an HIV negative person.

Without treatment, HIV will slowly progress in nearly everyone. This speed that HIV progresses varies from a few years to more than 20 years.

Note: this answer was updated in January 2018 from a question posted in August 2008..


  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Maggie,

    I’m sorry to hear this news about your sister and nephew. But finding a way to tell your nephew, now that he’s 18, is important for the future.

    Telling someone they were born with HIV can be difficult. But now that there is effective and easy-to-take treatment he can look forward to a healthy life. Someone on HIV treatment (ART) can have a life expectancy similar to someone who is HIV negative.

    There’s a lot of information on the i-Base site that can help. There are guides to starting ART, and ART in Pictures explains treatment in an easy way. There’s also a guide to HIV meds (ARVs), with pictures of the pills too.

    There’s really good news for your nephew, especially as he might now be looking for a partner. This is that taking ART and having an undetectable viral load means that HIV cannot be transmitted even without using condoms. Please see Undetectable = Untransmittable.

    Perhaps you can speak to the doctor and clinic to make sure he has support to take in this news while he thinks about starting treatment.

    Best wishes, Roy

  2. Maggie

    Hi, my nephew was born with HIV. He is now 18 years old but has never taken HIV treatment. He has been heathy since the age of 6. We discovered his status in 2015 and have not tested again. How do we break the news to him so he starts medication. His mother died when he was 20months.

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Willie,

    Sorry, but we don’t have resources to answer questions on risk and testing. However, all questions about this have been answered here.

    Please could you ask your friend to have these symptoms checked by a doctor? It’s important she gets a proper diagnosis.

  4. willie

    I had unprotected sex with a lady
    I went for medical check based on work travel abroad and was told during my blood test they notice I have Chlamydia infection
    Had to call this lady and find out from her about her recent sickness
    She told me she has been sick continuous for a year after having unprotected sex with a guy she met before me
    From her expression about symptoms I think she is suffering from AIDS because does not only relate to chlamydia symptoms since she says she has night sweats, scratchy troat, sore on tongue, weakness in her body and head ache as well as rash on her vagina, night sweat also pain in her vagina.
    She won’t go for treatment and symptoms keep showing up
    I fear its HIV and am infected but I have only had symptoms of chlamydia from what read about and been told am infected
    Does it mean I have HIV too despite been tested chlamydia since HIV test was not included in my test and I fear to do so
    Any help of what’s going on?

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Clement,

    Do you mean someone who cannot, or is struggling to come to terms with their status?

  6. clement

    How do you deal with someone who is at a denial stage

  7. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Esther,
    Please ask your doctor to look at your skin and check that this is not a serious reaction to your meds.

    Some HIV meds can cause dry skin and pigment changes. You can ask if there are other meds you can take.

    Here is the i-Base guide to skin rash with tips on how to treat and soothe your skin.


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