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. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Malebo, have you spoken to a doctor about these symptoms you are having? i-base is an HIV specific organisation and is unable to offer medical advise and information outside of HIV.

  2. Malebo

    I tested hiv negative twice, I have things itching me in my body, have headaches and lost weight. What must I do.

  3. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Thanks, is there a reason neither of you are on medication? It is possible that HIV affects your fertility which could be a reason of why you have not conceived. It is also possible that there might be another reason. Have you spoken to a doctor about trying to conceive? Ask your doctor about assisted reproduction. Ask about the possibility of referral to a fertility clinic with experience of HIV. Doing this might help increase your chances of having a child.

  4. Thanks

    We have been living with hiv for 16 years now with out treatment, and we have been trying to have a child me and my husband for 4 years I do not know if this could be a reason of us not conserving of what can any one help, and we have a 15 years old child

  5. 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?

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. Lahja

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

  9. 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.

  10. MITTAH

    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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