HIV Life Expectancy and Long-term Outlook

Reviewed on 9/1/2020

How long does a person with HIV live?

People with HIV can live a healthy and long life
People with HIV can live a healthy and long life

With early diagnosis and proper treatment, people with HIV can live a healthy and long life. There is no generalized definitive period for which a person with HIV can live. In the case of untreated HIV infection, the overall mortality rate is more than 90%. The average time from infection to death is 8 to 10 years. This may, however, vary from person to person. Many factors that affect survival include:

In the early days, the life expectancy and quality of life were drastically reduced in people with HIV. They would progress to AIDS within 10 years after which they would hardly live for more than two years.  

With the advances in diagnosis and treatment, people with HIV infection can be diagnosed and put on an excellent treatment regimen before their immunity declines significantly. They are thus also protected from various opportunistic infections (infections that occur in a person with a weak immune system) and cancers. Moreover, there are good tests available to monitor how well the infection is controlled. This enables timely change in treatment if one treatment regimen does not work well for a person. With the increasing use of ART (anti-retroviral therapy) and the introduction of better antiviral regimens, survival with HIV infection has increased over time. The survival, however, is generally not yet equivalent to that in uninfected individuals.

Can HIV be cured by natural remedies?

There is no cure for HIV. It cannot be treated or managed without proper medical therapy. It is important to seek healthcare as soon as a person is exposed to a potential risk of HIV infection. This will facilitate early diagnosis and treatment. It can be dangerous to seek nonscientific and unapproved treatment approaches. This will cause the management more difficult and may even lead to fatal complications.

Can HIV be cured?

HIV is a lifelong infection and cannot be cured. Antiretroviral treatment can, however, control the virus and the associated symptoms. Medications also lower the risk of complications and transmission of HIV. With proper treatment, people with HIV can lead long and healthy lives. Treatment lowers the viral load which not only protects the person from progressing into an advanced stage of the disease but also reduces the chances of transmission of the virus to others. It is important to get tested for HIV in the early stages of infection to minimize the damage to the immune system. Successful treatment aims at reducing HIV load to undetectable and harmless levels in the body permanently, but some residual virus may remain. Trials are underway for getting a safe and effective HIV vaccine.

What is the last stage of HIV infection?

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the final and most severe stage of HIV infection.  Because HIV has severely damaged the immune system, the body can't fight off opportunistic infections.

  • If ART is not given, HIV infection usually advances to AIDS in 10 years or longer. In some people, however, it may advance faster. 
  • In this stage, HIV reduces CD4 cell counts to very low levels (less than 200 units) which severely damages the immune system.
  • The week immune system cannot fight even those bacteria, viruses, and fungi which are unable to cause disease in other healthy people (opportunistic infections). Opportunistic infections are infections and infection-related cancers that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems. 
  • Once a person progresses to AIDS, they have a high viral load and can transmit HIV to others very easily. 
  • In the absence of treatment, people with AIDS typically survive for about three years.

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References
https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/211316-overview#a3

https://journalofethics.ama-assn.org/article/who-clinical-staging-system-hivaids/2010-03

https://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/faqs/life-expectancy-with-HIV.asp

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