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how long can you live with hiv

By: Karen Terry

September 5, 2022

How Long Can You Live with HIV? Outlook and Facts

Thirty years ago, the outlook for people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) was extremely poor. Now, medication has advanced. How long can you live with HIV in the 21st century? Well, the outlook has improved drastically. People live long, fulfilling lives and can have virtually undetectable viral loads if they receive early diagnosis and consistent treatment.

If you believe you may have HIV or another STD, call Rapid STD Testing today for a comprehensive 10-panel STD test to check your status.

So, how long do HIV positive patients live with early diagnosis and consistent treatment? We’ll discuss that right now.

How Long Can Someone Live with HIV?

In 1996, with the development of the first highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the average life expectancy of a 20-year-old with a new HIV infection was just ten years. Thankfully, that outlook has changed dramatically! So, how long can someone live with HIV? Well, at the risk of sounding ambiguous: It depends.

For example, the longer it takes to get diagnosed after becoming infected with HIV, the higher the chance of developing AIDS or other serious health problems. That’s why getting regular STD tests and knowing your status is so important.

You can get a rapid STD test right now at one of our 2500 testing locations nationwide and have your results in the next few days.

Furthermore, we now have the technology for early detection testing. You can learn more about early detection testing for HIV by reading through the Rapid STD Testing blog.  

How Long Can a Person With HIV Live with Medication?

Life expectancy among HIV+ people has increased dramatically in the past decade. As of 2022, the average life expectancy of a person in the U.S. or Canada with early HIV diagnosis and antiretroviral treatment (ART) is the same as someone without HIV, according to WebMD. The main exceptions are people of color in the U.S. and Canada, who may not receive the same quality of care, individuals in other parts of the world who lack resources, and drug users who inject.

Can You Survive HIV?

Yes, you can survive HIV and live a healthy life. However, becoming HIV positive longer holds the same risk of dying within a few years after getting infected, assuming the person doesn’t have certain risk factors and receives an early diagnosis and treatment.

However, HIV can leave you susceptible to opportunistic infections. Combined with a lack of medical care, those risk factors can increase mortality rates considerably.

Outlook for a Person Who Has HIV

When the first descriptions of what we now know to be HIV came out in 1981, the outlook was dire—and nowhere near what it is today.

However, only people who get consistent treatment, respond positively to medication, and have healthy lifestyle habits live to be over 70. Therefore, once you start taking combination antiretroviral therapies, you can expect to live a relatively long and healthy life.

For example, one 2017 study found that a person who receives an HIV diagnosis at age 20 and lives in a high-income country like America can add another 43.3 years to their overall life expectancy. However, with a late diagnosis and no treatment, HIV can cause chronic damage to your immune system and cause an early death.

Reasons for the Improved Life Expectancy

With the advancement of antiretroviral therapies and other medications such as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), the spread of HIV has slowed but not stopped.

Taking a combination of HIV meds can also slow the stages of the disease and prevent HIV from turning into AIDS. You can learn about the stages of HIV infection by reading this post from our Rapid STD Testing blog.

PrEP: If you’re currently HIV-negative but have high-risk factors (such as having unprotected sexual activity or sharing needles with someone who has infected blood), you can take PrEP. It can prevent the virus from forming an infection in your body.

PEP: If you’re HIV-negative but have had a single high-risk sexual exposure, you can take PEP to stop the virus from establishing an infection in your body. However, you must take PEP within 72 hours of exposure and continue the treatment for four weeks.  

Habits to Improve Life Expectancy

As with any chronic disease, certain behavioral factors can affect your overall health and life expectancy. You can live longer by leading an active lifestyle and following these tips:

Get Tested: Getting regular STD tests is a critical part of staying healthy. If you don’t get tested, you may not know you’re positive until you start showing symptoms, reducing your chances of a longer life expectancy. Fortunately, you can get same-day STD testing at one of our many locations in the U.S. and then receive results in one to three days. It’s fast, confidential, accurate, and keeps you informed of your status.

Take Medication: If you test positive for HIV, it’s critical to seek out a health care provider immediately who has experience treating HIV patients. They can customize a treatment regimen that will help you reduce your viral load and give you professional advice on how to lessen your risk of getting opportunistic infections.

Eat A Healthy Diet: For people with HIV, eating healthy foods is critical and can help prevent side effects of taking ARTs, including:

  • Oral infections
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Metabolism changes
  • Cancer (Kaposi sarcoma)

Practice Safe Sex: You should always use a condom when you have sex, whether it’s oral, vaginal, or anal. Using protection correctly can reduce (but not eliminate) your risk of getting STDs.

Challenges When Living with HIV

So, how long can you live with HIV if you have certain behavioral risk factors? Unfortunately, we don’t have very much data about the long-term effects of HIV on seniors or the elderly. However, now that medications are improving, that will hopefully change.

Unfortunately, even if you’re on medication that leaves you with a near-undetectable viral load, long-term HIV infection can cause serious health challenges. Over time, the virus can damage your body’s immune system cells, making it very difficult for your body to fight off other infections. Then, these damage the immune system even further, causing worse health complications.

Some of the most common opportunistic infections include:

  • Recurring pneumonia
  • Salmonella
  • Long-term intestinal infections
  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Brain and spinal cord disease
  • Fungal infections
  • Certain lung infections

Furthermore, poor lifestyle habits like smoking, having unprotected sex, and not maintaining regular treatment can also worsen the progression of the disease.

Take Control of Your Sex Life with Same-Day HIV Testing

The answer to the question, “How long can you live with HIV?” depends on several risk factors, like time of diagnosis, lifestyle habits, and how your body reacts to the medication.

However, with early diagnosis and consistent treatment, you can live a long, healthy life into your 60s and 70s. If you believe you may have HIV, don’t wait. Call Rapid STD Testing at (866) 872-1888 and order your HIV testing panel today.


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By: Karen Terry
September 5, 2022

With a profound passion for making intricate medical information accessible to all, John possesses a unique ability to simplify complex concepts without sacrificing accuracy or depth. Armed with a comprehensive understanding of various healthcare fields, John is well-versed in the latest research and advancements. However, what truly sets him apart is his remarkable talent for distilling this wealth of knowledge into engaging, reader-friendly content.