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Life Expectancy Without Meds
Oct 21, 2009

I have a question of curiousity? How long would a person live if they choose not to take medication? I have a friend that's currently undetectable but I know the day will come when he will need to take medication. Hypothetically Wondering! He as often said that he will not take them, how long could I tell him he would possible live and what would/should he look for with respect to illness and fatality?

Response from Dr. McGowan

Thanks for your question.

Unfortunately before treatments became available we had alot of experience with this issue.

Statistics look at the average survival across many people...there are some who die quickly and some who can live for many years. The overall survival from infection to death was about 13 years before treatment. The most important measurement to determine a person's risk of getting sick or dying in the short term is their current CD4 count. One report from The HOPS study showed that people who did not take any treatment for HIV until their CD4 count dropped below 200 were more than 10 times likley to die than people who started treatment with their CD4 counts above 350. Another study estimates that a 25 year old person with HIV without effective treatment could expect to live for 8 more years. With treatment this would be increased to at least another 39 years!!

It is common for a person to resist taking medication out of fear or that taking the pills reminds them that they have HIV. The first thing is that he has to come to terms with his infection and start to take charge and fight back...that might be liberating for him...and also life saving.

Best, Joe



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