How Long Can Someone Live With HIV?

There are currently about 36.4 million people living with HIV across the world according to the United Nations (UNAIDS). If left untreated, HIV develops into a fatal condition known as AIDS with victims having between 8-10 years to live, although early in the epidemic the expectancy of surviving AIDS was much poorer. Without proper treatment that is now available, AIDS patients initially were expected to live only 1-2 years.

The life expectancy of people living with HIV has dramatically improved over time thanks to the scientific research and treatment options available today. While the life expectancy for people living with HIV was approximated to be about 19 years back in the 1990s, a diagnosed HIV patient today can live as long as the general population if the diagnosis and treatment are initiated early in the process of the illness.

With early intervention, the 19 years has been extended up to about 53 years!

Starting antiretroviral treatment (ART) as early as possible is considered crucial to be able to control the condition and extend the life expectancy of HIV positive persons. Studies have indicated that people with HIV responding to ART have reduced morbidity and mortality to the point that they can live as long as the general population.

However, life expectancy depends on other factors like how soon the condition was diagnosed, how early treatment was started, gender, age, general lifestyle and, as one article put it, luck. (The life expectancy for women is slightly less than men.) Based on these factors, research in Brazil estimated 95% of deaths occurring in the first year after diagnosis were as a result of late diagnosis. Meanwhile, the study found, taking ART drugs in a timely manner (early in the progression of the illness) would reduce AIDS mortality rate in Brazil by 39.5%.

Different governments are calling out for regular diagnosis to ensure people know their status so that they can start treatment in time to improve life expectancy and lead an excellent quality of life. Doing away with such lifestyle activities like smoking, drinking, and unprotected sexual intercourse will help push a patient’s life expectancy further. A young person in his/her 20s diagnosed with HIV can now live into his or her 70s according to research by North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design. Another study by the Swiss Cohort supported this indicating that individuals that started their treatment before the CD4 cell count fell below 350 cells/cubic millimeter may achieve a life expectancy same as that of the general population.

Some diagnostic standards designate the start of AIDS as the point when the CD4 cell count falls to 200 cells/cubic millimeter or less. This counts, essentially, the white blood cells that fight off infections and are, therefore, a key component to your immune system. A healthy CD4 cell count is normally somewhere between 500 and 1,500 cells per cubic millimeter.