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.

256 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Loice,

    It’s not a given that your son is positive, however if he’s not been tested since birth he needs to have a test. As to how you’ll tell him, I can’t help with this one. It’s important to realise that being positive shouldn’t be an issue.

  2. Loice

    I am HIV positive for the last 21 years. My husband passed away 14years ago due to HIV.
    I have only one boy child now 20 years, and I suspect he is also HIV positive but I don’t have the courage to tell him that his dad died of HIV and that he got it from birth.
    How can I help my child.
    He recently suffered Tuberculosis and has the symptoms.
    How can I help my boy

  3. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Lean,

    When someone is diagnosed it can be a shock, give yourself some time, you’re going to be OK.
    HIV is no longer the illness it used to be. HIV is now very easy to treat and with medication you’ll be able to lead a normal life.
    It’s common to be scared about starting ARVs, it is however important that you engage in treatment. Not only will the ARVs help your health, once your viral load is undetectable there won’t be a risk to negative sexual partners. Please see the following: https://i-base.info/u-equals-u/ and https://i-base.info/guides/starting

    With regards to your boyfriend, it’s up to you if you tell him about your status or not. However, if you’ve been having sex without a condom it’s really important that he tests. If he’s positive he might not know. If he doesn’t know his health is at risk.
    There is of course a possibility that he might be negative, to know he’s going to need to test.

    It’s common to feel scared with telling a sexual partner about your status, ideally it should be done.

  4. Lean

    Ive just found that I’m HIV+ and I’m so scared to tell my boyfriend, I’m not ready to take the ARV,so stressed

  5. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Thato,

    It’s good to hear you’ve had 3 boys who are all HIV negative.

    But you don’t have to tell anyone you are HIV positive if you don’t want to. However, some of us find it difficult to tell potential partners. If you are worried about this please see the Q&A here.

    You can also ask your doctor if there’s somebody at the clinic you can talk to. This might help relieve some of the burden.

    Please let us know how you get on.

  6. Thato

    I have been living with HIV for 21 years, I am not on treatment and I use to do my cd4 count but I have stop 11 years ago. I have 3 boys all of them are HIV negative. I have never disclosed to anyone even my own family. I live a normal life and I’ve never showed any symptoms nor been hospitalized But this secret is too much of a burden to bare.

Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *