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6. How long can I live if I am HIV positive?

The vast majority of people infected with HIV will progress to AIDS stage in an average of 7-10 years after infection. Without treatment you may not be able to live longer than 1-3 years after that. With the introduction of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) in 1996, anti-HIV medications have since been found to be able to suppress individuals’ viral load to undetectable level and thus improve their survival. There is every reason to assume that increasing numbers of people will be living longer, and living well with HIV, and outliving the prognosis. 

However there are many factors that may affect your life span, here are few that worth your attention:

1) How well the person takes care of themselves medically

  • People who live a healthy lifestyle (diet, exercise, etc.) tend to live longer. People who have other medical problems, and/or those with a history of substance abuse, may not live as long. If you take care of yourself and adhere well to your medications, there is no reason you should not live a full life. Besides that it is recommended to get tested for Hepatitis A, B, and C and get vaccinated for A and B if you have not been exposed yet.
2) How well the person takes care of themselves emotionally
  • People with a positive mental attitude tend to live longer than those with a pessimistic or negative mental attitude. Go to support groups to talk to others that have gone through what you are going through. Do not isolate yourself. HIV can be a wake up call to live life to fullness.
3) The virulence of the strain of HIV
  • Some strains of HIV may be more virulent than others. We have already found cases where a person was infected with a rare genetically defective strain of HIV, and that strain was not causing any significant illness (so far).
4) Drug resistant strains of HIV
  • People who have drug resistant strains of HIV may not live as long, if the drugs that are available are no longer effective. But if a person is responding well to their medications, they are expected to live longer.
5) The genetic make-up of the person
  • A few people have genetic mutations in their white blood cells (including mutations in the CCR-5 receptor and other receptors), that can slow down the progression of the disease.

It is very hard to know what is the longest time that one can live with HIV/AIDS. Often, it is difficult to predict exactly how long a person has been infected with the virus, since people progress from HIV to AIDS at different rates. Some people progress to AIDS very quickly, and others progress very slowly. But we do know that there are some infected individuals that can live for many years with the virus.

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