How long can you live if you have HIV?

It is natural to wonder how long you will live if you are infected with HIV. While people will assure you that this is a treatable disease – and it sure is – what does this actually mean, not just your longevity, but your quality of life?

While certain considerations have come into play, overall, the outlook is very good. With advances in antiretroviral therapy, people living with HIV today can expect to live longer and healthier lives than ever before if treatment is started early and taken as prescribed.

This article looks at what current research says about HIV and life expectancy. It also explores some of the factors that influence life expectancy, including those that could recoup the benefits of modern antiretroviral therapy.

What the current research shows

When highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) was introduced in 1996, the average life expectancy for a 20-year-old newly infected with HIV was 10 years. These numbers have taken a significant leap forward as a new generation of drugs is not only safer but also more effective.

According to the long-standing North American AIDS Research and Design Cohort Collaboration (NA-ACCORD), 20-year-olds who start HIV treatment today can expect to live into their early 70s.

With life expectancy for the general U.S. population hovering around 77, This means that people who receive HIV treatment early can enjoy a near-normal life expectancy. Some can expect to do better.


If diagnosed and treated early, people living with HIV have a near-normal life expectancy.

Factors that reduce life expectancy

Despite these advances, there are factors that can increase or decrease the life expectancy of people living with HIV. These range from things we can control (such as taking medicine every day) to things we cannot control (such as race or poverty).

These factors not only affect a person’s response to treatment, but also whether they can access treatment in the first place. Because of this, how often do people with HIV live Can From an individual perspective, people living with HIV are often very different.

Furthermore, HIV is only part of a long-term concern. Even among those receiving treatment, the risk of developing non-HIV-related diseases such as cancer or heart disease is much higher than in the general population, and could have occurred anywhere from 10 to 15 years ago.

These concerns are so serious that people living with HIV today are more likely to die from non-HIV-related diseases than from HIV-related diseases.


There are many factors that affect the life expectancy of people living with HIV. This includes a person’s ability to access treatment and to adhere to treatment. Even if they could, they still have a higher risk of developing non-HIV-related diseases, such as certain cancers, than the general population.

HIV and health disparities in Latino communities

life years lost

There is not always a straight line between how certain risk factors increase or decrease the life expectancy of people living with HIV. This is because people tend to have overlapping risk factors.

Take men who have sex with men (MSM), for example. The combination of racism, poverty, homophobia and stigma, and biological vulnerability to HIV gives black MSM in the United States a 50/50 chance of contracting HIV in their lifetime.

There are other studies that illustrate how individual risk factors reduce life expectancy in people living with HIV.

delayed treatment

HIV treatment is most effective when started during early infection with high CD4 counts. The CD4 count measures the number of CD4 T cells in a blood sample. These are the white blood cells that HIV infection targets, killing more and more over time. A CD4 count (ranging from 0 to 1,300 or more) is a strong indicator of how strong or weak your immune system is.

For most people who receive treatment early, the CD4 count will return to normal levels (500 or above). For those who delay treatment, CD4 counts may never fully recover, leaving the person vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Studies have shown that starting HIV treatment with a CD4 count below 200 can shorten life expectancy by an average of 8 years compared to people with a CD4 count above 200.


Research shows that smokers living with HIV today lose more years of life to smoking than any other independent cause. In addition, HIV-infected smokers had twice the risk of dying from smoking and shortened their average lifespan by 12 years.

According to published in 2013 clinical infectious diseasethe average life expectancy of a 35-year-old HIV-infected smoker is about 63 years.


The race and lifespan of people living with HIV are inextricably linked. This is largely due to high poverty rates in communities of color. Without access to quality health care, insurance, housing, and employment, a person is not only more susceptible to HIV infection, but also less likely to effectively manage their disease.

This is reflected in the current mortality rate. According to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the death rate of blacks infected with HIV in the United States was no less than 13 percent higher than that of whites infected with HIV.

Creating space for women of color living with HIV

injecting drug use

HIV-infected injecting drug users (IDUs) lose years of life from both HIV-related and non-HIV-related diseases.

People living with HIV who inject drugs have higher rates of serious opportunistic infections than non-injecting people living with HIV because of lower treatment adherence rates. Injecting drug users are also more likely to have co-infections such as hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases that further reduce life expectancy.

All told, the death rate among people who inject drugs with HIV is almost double that of people living with HIV who do not inject drugs.


Some of the factors that directly reduce the life expectancy of people living with HIV include smoking, people of color and injecting drug use. Delaying HIV treatment also reduces life expectancy. Poverty and stigma are an integral part.


Studies show that people with HIV today can expect to live near normal life if treatment is started early and taken daily as prescribed. Even so, some things can undermine a person’s ability to do so.

This includes factors such as poverty, stigma, racism and homophobia that can prevent a person from accessing consistent care and treatment. Other factors, such as smoking and injecting drug use, are directly associated with life loss. Delaying treatment also reduces life expectancy because the immune system is less likely to recover, leaving the body vulnerable to infections.

Why 50% of gay black men get HIV

VigorTip words

While the statistics are encouraging, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about HIV. Ultimately, the choices you make will determine how well you respond to treatment and affect your personal risk of developing HIV and non-HIV-related diseases.

Ultimately, HIV is more than just a pill. You also need to maintain overall health by eating healthy, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, and receiving recommended vaccinations. By doing so, you will only further improve your odds of living a long, healthy life among people living with HIV.