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.

284 comments

  1. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Lovina, starting drugs as soon as you can is the best way to keep you healthy. While you may be feeling well, HIV can still be having an effect on your body – namely damaging your immune system.

    Taking drugs will prevent the actions of HIV. It will also prevent you passing on HIV to others.

  2. Lovina

    Hey my name is lovina, I was tested HIV positive last year December and till date I’ve not been sick, no symptoms, I’m very healthy… Should I start taking drugs now?

  3. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Sharon, it is not clear who is HIV positive?

  4. Sharon

    Hey my got HIV 16 years ago she hasn’t been taking drugs nobody knew she was positive until 16 years later that’s wen she stared taking her drugs my question is why now? What went wrong that she finally agreed to take her drugs

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