Q and A

Question

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?

Answer

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..

249 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Mwitabangoma,
    If I’ve understood your question you tested negative in 2016. So you’ve been HIV positive for about 2 years. HIV usually takes many years to slowly wear out your immune system. So this could be why you are not ill.
    However, are you thinking about starting HIV treatment (ART)? Modern ART is safe and effective. It can be good for your overall health too.
    This is a guide to ART in Pictures. I hope it helps you to think about ART, and see how it can benefit you.

  2. Mwitabangoma

    Hi,i was diagnosed in Nov 2017.I tested negative in 2008 & 2016 but the third test came out positive.I’m 30 yrs i have not fallen chronically ill for the last 3decades.How did this come about?

  3. Simon Collins

    Hi Adrian, thanks for writing – how are you doing? It can be difficult to find out you are HIV positive.

    It is good you are looking forwards, and the things you write are all true. Most guidelines now recommend HIV treatment at any CD4 count, even if this is still high. This can vary through depending on which country you are in and how you access treatment. It is good that you are looking after your health in other ways.

    With treatment you can expect to live a long and health life.

  4. Adrian

    Hello,
    I am 20 years old boy and I was diagnosed this month that I have HIV. I have never had any symptoms except aphthaes in my mouth.
    I didn’t take anti viral meds yet because I am still waiting for my CD4 test results.
    I was probably infected less than year ago by my ex-partner.
    How long can I live if I start take meds from now?
    All my life I never smoked even 1 cigarette, I never drink any alcohol and all my life I was on strict raw food diet. I am fitness model so I exercise a lot.
    I hope this virus will not affect me so much, and the difference between now and my old life will be just taking this pills every day :(

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Anurag.

    Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. And I’m sorry for your loss.

    If you were tested as a child and it was negative, then its very unlikely that you’re positive. However, if you are concerned, which it sounds like you are, then testing is something that you will need to consider. Though your younger brother was positive, this doesn’t mean that you are. Being positive is basically an issue of bad luck.

  6. Anurag

    In how much time hiv progresses to aids, does it vary person to person . My mother was died in five years after my birth and I got tested and found hiv negative but my brother from same who is 3 years younger to me has hiv . My died in 2001 and father died in 2010 . I am really scared that I may positive and I m 21 now without any treatment .how is it possible please make me sure that I m positive I am really scared about it.

  7. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Rasal, Yes, as it says on this question above. HIV positive people can live long lives when taking ARVs.

  8. Rasal

    Today living with hiv posible with arv drugs or no ???

  9. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Laura,

    When someone stops taking medication their viral load will rebound and their CD4 will drop. Its not possible to say how long it will take before a persons CD4 gets to the level where a person can become ill as we’re all different. An estimated guess would be a few years. However, this isn’t an accurate science.

    If someone isn’t on meds, they will eventually get ill as their immune system will no longer be able to deal with illnesses.

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