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.

282 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Ziyanda,

    Coming to terms with being positive can take a while, HIV is an journey, they’ll be moments when it’s all ok and others when you’ll question your status. All of this is common. Being able to talk to others who are positive might help, especially if your partner can’t really understand what it is that you’re going through.

  2. Ziyanda

    Hi I’m Ziyanda 27 years old..I tested positive August 2019 and my partner tested negative even now I never started the treatment I’m scared….it hard for me to accept it…I don’t even know what to do also my partner didnt take it serious that I was diagnosis it hard

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Sharon,

    I’m sorry to hear of your recent diagnosis. It can be a difficult time for all of us when we test positive.

    But you can take your time. It’s going to be okay.

    Please see this page that says what we all feel when we test positive. So even if you feel worried, frightened, upset or angry now, it will get easier. You will still be able do all the things you wanted to do before you learned that you were HIV positive.

    It may hurt right now, but it will get better. You can think about starting HIV treatment (ART). And you can discuss this with your doctor.

    HIV for most people can be easily managed and treated.

    Please let us know how you get on. There’s a lot of info in i-Base guides for treatment. Here’s an Introduction to ART with info to help you think about starting ART.

    Please keep in touch.

  4. Sharon

    I’ve been diagnosed as of yesterday 8/9/2020 I’m shattered beyond words I cant stop crying this feels like I dont even know how to put it in words right now it hurts .

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Nana.

    Now that you’re on treatment, once your viral load is undetectable the risk to your baby will be reduced. At this point no one can say for sure if your baby will be negative or not, please see here: http://i-base.info/guides/pregnancy

  6. Nana

    Hi, am Nana from Ghana, I was diagnosed positive when I went to the antenatal after three months pregnant. Then I was putting on meds, will my unborn baby be free n negative?

  7. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Ashley,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. However, I’ve emailed you directly and confidentially.

  8. Ashley

    Hi, my name is Ashley, from Kenya. My mother was recently diagnosed with HIV. My mother is greatly affected by this condition as she has never cheated in her marriage. She is bitter at my dad and they certainly cannot continue staying together for my mum to get well. Is there a way,she could probably get away from Kenya to any country, especially USA since she has relatives there, in order for her to get help?She is a high school teacher. i feel she really is broken. KINDLY HELP!

  9. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Romeo,

    I’m so sorry to hear this story. It sounds very tough for you.

    But for most of us living with HIV it’s a good idea to keep going to the clinic. That’s because, even if you don’t feel sick now, you can get advice and help for the future.

    Please conatct the Treatment Action Campaign at this contact link. They can help with local support. They might be able to put you in touch with other young people who are HIV positive too. It can really help if we get the chance to speak to other people in the same situation.

    Good luck and best wishes. Please let us know how you get on.

  10. Romeo

    hi my name is romeo 21 years old. i leave in south africa im living with hiv took my treatment 2years now i stopped is almost a 2 years now without meds i hate going to clinic now and than and i blame my parents for being sick thier are both sick but find out after i was born.i am not feeling sick

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