Q and A

Question

How long can I live if I’m taking HIV treatment (ART)?

Can HIV kill when you have an undetectable viral load? I’m doing well on medication and how long can i live to the cure? Lastly, why cant I stop thinking about my HIV status – first thing in the morning and also just before I fall asleep?

Polio have been eradicated but why cant scientists do the same for HIV?

Answer

The quick answer is that with modern HIV drugs (called ART) your life expectancy is likely to be similar to if you were HIV negative. The earlier someone is diagnosed and start ART, the quicker any damage from HIV can be reversed.

For most people, HIV is easy to treat and easy to manage.  ART can give you a normal life expectancy and an excellent quality of life.

Hw long anyone will live depends on things you can change (smoking, exercise, medication) and thing you can’t (genetics and luck).  A study in Denmark (2005) estimated that the survival is more than 35 years for a young person diagnosed with HIV infection and another study in Canada (2003) report that in the US, life expectancy at age 20 years was an additional 58.3 years.

As long as your CD4 count stays above 200 cells/mm3, the risk of most HIV complications is pretty low. At higher CD4 levels – above 350, or 500, or 700 – the risk becomes lower still. Although some health problems are slightly higher in HIV positive people compared to HIV negative people, these risks are also often reduced by ART.

If you continue to take your medication as prescribed and do not miss or taking doses late, then the risk of HIV health problems in the future s very low. However, just as HIV negative people become ill, lifestyle changes to reduce these risks are important if you are HIV positive. For example, keeping mentally and physically active, eating a balanced diet, resting well, not smoking etc).

Having HIV might not always be easy though. The shock of being diagnosed sometimes takes a long time to come to terms with and at the moment you are still working on this. Already, I am sure you feel better than when you were first diagnosed and this will continue to become easier every year.

Most people worry about the impact of HIV on their life.  This could bewhy you think about your HIV status on a daily basis.  If this continues to be difficult perhaps get in touch with a local support group or ask about counselling. Talking about your HIV status can help you to deal with it and also through group support you can share experiences and also learn from one another.  You do not have to deal with it in isolation.

Finally, you asked about research into a cure. HIV is very complex in a way that is different to polio. Although currently there is no vaccine or cure, there is a lot of ongoing research.

HIV treatment is one of the successes of modern medicine. The breadth and expertise in scientific advances has not only developed 30 medications in five drug classes but this research has contributed to many other areas of medicine.

Even though curing HIV is difficult, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic.

This question was updated in January 2018 from an original answer posted in November 2011. (See: Question 10 at this link for more information).

527 comments

  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Blessing,

    ARVs should be free in Cameroon, is there any reason why you’re being asked to pay? i-base are based in the UK, therefore your best option is to contact local HIV organisations in Yaounde, they should be able to help.

  2. Nkeng

    Hello I am blessing from Cameroon. I have been taking ARvs for 15years now.No sides effect. With the situation in my country now it’s very difficult n also very costly to go get my drugs. Pls is there an organization that can help us . Thanks God bless you.

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Peter,

    I’m sorry to hear you are feeling so weak. But what does your doctor say about this?

    Please let us know how long you’ve been on ARVs, and what they are called. And if you have access to your CD4 count and viral load results, please tell us what they are.

  4. Peter

    Hie
    I’m peter since i started take my ARVs my body is so weak and every time i feel to sleep . What should i do to become in my old time?

  5. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Lindi,

    What ARVs are you taking?

  6. Lindi

    Hi I am taking ARVs but my problem is that my face is starting to became dark. I’m worried what should I do to get my old completion back

  7. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Victor,

    Until your partners viral load is undetectable, you’re going to need to use condoms. Once her viral load becomes undetectable, then it’s OK to have sex without condoms. This is because there won’t be any risk. Please see here: http://i-base.info/u-equals-u/

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