How long can a person live with HIV/AIDS?
Jul 27, 1998
What is the longest time that someone has lived with the AIDS virus active in their body? does HIV always turn into AIDS? Is it possible for a person with AIDS or HIV to live a full long life? What is the average life span?
Response from Mr. Sowadsky
Hi. Thank you for your question. At this time, we cannot say what is the longest amount of time a person can live with HIV. This is because there are some people who have been infected for many years (since the epidemic was first recognized in the early 1980s), and they are still alive today. Some of these patients have been found to have rare genetically defective strains of HIV that are not causing them any significant illness thus far.
One recent study used mathematical modeling to predict that some HIV positive people (perhaps 10% or more) may live up to 25 years without getting AIDS. Because HIV has only been studied since the early 1980s, we cannot say at this time how accurate this mathematical model may be. Only time and experience will answer this question.
Because treatments have improved so dramatically over the past few years, we cannot say how long the average person can now live with the disease. Since things are changing so quickly in regard to treatments, all we can say that people are living longer, but we don't yet know how long most will live. A person can potentially live for years, even with full-blown AIDS, but just how many years is highly variable from person to person. What we can say is that the vast majority of people infected with HIV will develop AIDS sometime during their life (an average of 10 years or more after infection), and with early intervention and treatment, they could potentially live with AIDS for many years more. The following are some of the many variables that can determine how long a person can live with HIV.
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.
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.
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.
6) Partial Immunity???? I have to put question marks after the word "immunity", since there is no definitive proof thus far that anybody has a true documented immunity to HIV. But, in persons who are living prolonged periods of time with HIV (and not developing AIDS), this possibility cannot be excluded.
It is very hard to know what the longest amount of time is 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.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).
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