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how long does it take hiv to turn into aids

By: RSC Editorial Team

October 2, 2023

How Long Does It Take HIV To Turn Into AIDS?

Have you received an HIV diagnosis? It’s natural to feel panicked after any new diagnosis. You may worry that your HIV will instantly turn into AIDS or that your life will forever be altered because of your diagnosis. 

However, neither of these sentiments is necessarily true. Learning more about HIV can help you better understand this condition and take the necessary measures to minimize its symptoms. You’ll also feel more in control of your sexual health. 

So, how long does it take HIV to turn into AIDS, and is this transition something you should be concerned about? Most importantly, are there any steps you can take to slow the transition from HIV to AIDS? 

Continue reading for this comprehensive guide on the HIV-to-AIDS progression. Then, order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing to better understand your current sexual health. 

The HIV-to-AIDS Timeline: What Science Says

As you’re researching HIV and AIDS, you may run into some misinformation, myths, and rumors that complicate your understanding of these conditions. Instead, find peace of mind in what the science says, not what other people say about HIV. 

Understanding HIV and AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) negatively affects the immune system. This virus targets your white blood cells, known as CD4-T cells, responsible for helping your body fight infection. As a result, contracting HIV lowers your body’s ability to fight infections and illnesses. 

HIV progresses in different stages, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of this virus. Not everyone who contracts HIV will develop AIDS. Most people in the U.S. with HIV never develop AIDS because they take medicine to stop the progression of this virus. 

Stages of HIV Infection 

Numerous researchers have investigated the progression of HIV to AIDS. Generally, without treatment, HIV will progress into three different stages

How long does HIV stay dormant? The first stage of HIV is an acute HIV infection. This stage occurs within two to four weeks of exposure to the virus. During this time, the virus replicates rapidly, leading to a high concentration of the virus within the blood. 

The initial symptoms of acute HIV infection feel similar to the flu. You may experience:

  • Fever
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Skin rashes
  • Ulcers in the mouth 

These symptoms indicate the body’s attempt to kill off the virus. However, the body cannot eliminate HIV on its own. The virus will continue replicating throughout the body, lowering your CD4 count in the process. 

Eventually, your immune system will stabilize the virus. HIV will then progress to the second stage: chronic HIV infection.

Patients living with a chronic HIV infection may not experience any symptoms. Those who do typically experience mild symptoms. Still, HIV is transmissible at this stage. 

How long does it take HIV to turn into AIDS? Without treatment, chronic HIV infection can stay dormant for up to 10 years before it turns into stage three HIV, also known as AIDS. The viral load will continue to increase and kill off the CD4 cells. AIDS may produce symptoms like regular infections, weight loss, persistent cough, and chronic diarrhea. 

People with AIDS often develop opportunistic infections due to their worsened immune systems. These may include herpes, candidiasis, salmonella, and toxoplasmosis. 

Many factors impact the progression from HIV to AIDS, including the following:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Overall health
  • HIV subtype
  • Presence of other infections 
  • Treatment adherence

Treatment and Prevention: Slowing the Progression

While HIV has the potential to turn into AIDS, modern medicine has made this progression increasingly less common. Catching your HIV infection early and seeking treatment can effectively treat your HIV and minimize symptoms. 

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is currently the most effective treatment for HIV. You can learn more about it below. But there are other steps you can take to minimize the effects of HIV as well. 

Younger, healthier individuals typically stand a better chance of fighting off the HIV infection, lowering their viral count to an “undetectable viral load.” While an HIV infection will linger in a person’s body forever, experiencing an undetectable viral load is the ultimate goal for infected individuals, as it indicates that the HIV is no longer causing symptoms or is transmissible. 

If you believe you have been exposed to AIDS — that is, you came into contact with the bodily fluids of someone you know has AIDS or whose sexual health you do not know — you should talk to your healthcare provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PIP). This treatment involves taking anti-HIV drugs within 72 hours of exposure to kill the virus before it infects the bloodstream. 

PIP is for emergency situations. You should not use it as a substitute for taking HIV prevention measures. 

Several lifestyle factors can contribute to the progression of HIV into AIDS. You should follow these tips to boost your immune system:

  • Avoid infections by receiving regular vaccinations, per your doctor’s recommendations
  • Use condoms during sexual intercourse to avoid other STIs
  • Eat a balanced diet with a low alcohol intake
  • Reduce stress in your life, as stress weakens the immune system

After receiving an HIV diagnosis through a 10-panel STD test, you should visit your healthcare provider regularly for medical check-ups. Your provider will monitor your viral load and CD4 counts and review the effectiveness of any medications you are on to keep you on the right track. 

According to HIVinfo.NIH.gov, “For people with HIV, treatment adherence is key to staying healthy.” Talk to your healthcare provider about any barrier that may prevent you from adhering to your treatment plan. 

Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) 

When does HIV treatment begin? After you have received an HIV diagnosis, your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment options. The main treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). 

ART involves taking a combination of HIV medications every day. The medications in your treatment regimen depend on your health history, symptoms, and viral load. You may need to try several medications before your doctor settles on a long-term treatment plan. 

HIV medications prevent HIV from multiplying in the body, helping you maintain a normal viral load. Continually fighting off the infection allows your immune system to stay strong enough to fight off infections. Medications also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. 

There are currently dozens of medications available to fight HIV. They are classified into seven drug classes

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs)
  • Protease inhibitors (PIs)
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs)
  • Fusion inhibitors
  • Post-attachment inhibitors
  • CCR5 antagonists
  • Integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs)

Myths and Misconceptions About HIV-to-AIDS Progression

Unfortunately, HIV and AIDS have developed a negative stigma that has led to the spread of myths and misinformation. Understanding the differences between myths and facts can help you take control of your health and determine the best ways to treat your HIV in the long term. 

First, many people wrongfully assume that if you contract HIV, it will definitely turn into AIDS. A myth along the same lines is that HIV and AIDS are the same thing. Thankfully, neither of these is true; HIV is less serious than AIDS, and most people with HIV never develop AIDS. 

On the flip side, some HIV patients believe that because HIV can take between 10 and 15 years to turn into AIDS, they don’t need to worry about their condition for some time. Catching and treating HIV early on is essential for reducing your viral load and preventing complications. 

One myth that has circulated since the development of ART is that you no longer need to worry about getting HIV because drugs will keep you healthy. HIV is still a serious condition that you should take every measure to avoid. While HIV drugs are effective for many people, they often have serious side effects. Some strains of HIV are also drug-resistant.

On that same note, some believe that medications will cure HIV. While medications can reduce the replication of the virus so that you have an undetectable viral load, there is no complete cure for HIV

Another common myth is that contracting HIV means your life is over. While in the early years of HIV and AIDS, the prognosis was dismal, modern medicine has allowed numerous people to live normal, productive lives even with HIV. Starting drug treatment early and taking your medication as instructed can allow you to live just as long as you would without HIV. 

Believing and spreading false information about HIV or any sexually transmitted disease has several negative consequences. First, it creates a negative stigma around the virus that could lead infected individuals to avoid sharing their diagnosis with others or taking the proper measures to prevent this infection. 

Misinformation could also lead infected or at-risk individuals to fail to recognize when they have been exposed to HIV. On the other hand, spreading lies about the severity of HIV could lead infected individuals to believe that their lives are over, leading to depression and even suicidal thoughts in some. 

Knowing the myths versus the realities about this virus gives you power over it. HIV is manageable as long as you follow a sound treatment plan.

Living With HIV: Preparing for the Long Haul

The goal of HIV treatment is to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, but this goal isn’t attainable for everyone. If you cannot maintain an undetectable viral road, you can take measures to protect your sexual partners.

Encourage your partners to take pre-exposure prophylaxis, and use condoms correctly every time you have sex. You can also reduce the risk of transmission by choosing sexual activities that are less risky than anal or vaginal sex, such as oral sex. 

HIV comes with a societal stigma, but you can take time to inform your friends, family members, and sexual partners about the myths and realities of life with HIV. Even still, you’ll likely encounter some prejudice from uninformed individuals. Determine whether it is worth your time to engage with these people. 

Staying healthy can help protect your immune system and prevent HIV symptoms from worsening. Conduct same-day STD testing regularly through Rapid STD Testing, and seek treatment for any new STDs immediately. Practice safe sex even when you have an undetectable viral load to avoid contracting STDs from a partner. 

You should also do everything you can to stick to your treatment regimen. HIV medications cost money, so try to maintain high-coverage health insurance and budget appropriately so that you can always financially afford your medication. 

Schedule routine checkups with your healthcare provider to monitor your viral load and ensure that other areas of your health are where they should be. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and avoid smoking — all of these can help you fight off the HIV infection. People with HIV who smoke are more likely to develop AIDS-defining conditions like lung cancer, bacterial pneumonia, and oral candidiasis, leading to a shorter lifespan. 

Finally, living with HIV can be emotionally taxing. Don’t be afraid to lean on friends and family members for emotional support, and consider seeking mental health treatment or long-term counseling if needed. 

Stay Informed About Your Sexual Health With Rapid STD Testing 

So, how long does it take HIV to turn into AIDS? The answer can be 10 years or more, but following an HIV treatment regimen will decrease or even eliminate your chances of ever developing AIDS. 

At Rapid STD Testing, we empower individuals to stay informed and in control of their sexual health. Taking STD tests can help you catch any infections or viruses early and prevent them from worsening, and we make the STD testing process simple. 

Order same-day STD tests today or visit an STD testing center near you.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
October 2, 2023

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