Q and A


How long can I live without HIV drugs?

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


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.


  1. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Mary, I am sorry to hear that your son has been refusing medication. Do you know why this is? If he has developed rashes will he be alright to visit a doctor/health clinic?

  2. Mary

    My son is hiv positive but he has refused to take medication for a year now.
    He has developed rashes on the face. He doesn’t do anything but sleep and eat

    He stop education and he won’t listen to anyone. He looks healthy

  3. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Lahja, why did you not start treatment? Have you mentioned these symptoms to your doctor? It is possible it is caused by HIV but there may be another reason. You will be able to discuss your symptoms and what the possible cause is and how to manage it.

  4. Lahja

    I was tested positive but I did not take treatment but now I am just having throut tongue paining everyday

  5. Simon Collins

    Hi Mittah, please contact your doctor again so you can have these problems treated. You can also talk about long-term issues. The support might make it easier – or perhaps the latest HIV meds might help.


    I have hiv positive for 20 years i don’t know whats wrong with me i keep defaulting now i have 2years not talking it.and i have a problem of private part sores.and ringworms on my head and face.


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