Life Expectancy With HIV: Examining the Longevity Dynamics 

Monali Sharma
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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life expectancy with hiv

If detected and treated early, HIV patients can enjoy near-normal lives.

With adherence to the prescribed treatment, HIV patients can live longer and healthier than ever, thanks to breakthroughs in Antiretroviral medication.

However, many factors may reverse those advances and lower life expectancy. 

Changeable risk factors include smoking and injecting drugs, while non-modifiable risk factors include race and gender.

This article examines current life expectancy with HIV and research related to it, along with discussing life expectancy factors and how people with the STI might stay healthy.

The changes in HIV life expectancy with time 

hivSource: ktsimage_from_GettyImages
HIV blood sample

Life expectancy for people living with HIV/AIDS has significantly improved in recent years. 

With the right treatment and care, individuals with HIV can live a near-normal lifespan.

When HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) was introduced in 1996, the average life expectancy of a 20-year-old newly HIV-positive was ten years for men and nine for women. 

These numbers skyrocketed with the introduction of safer, more effective medications.

A 2013 major research from the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design found that a 20-year-old commencing HIV medication might live into their early 70s.

Another 2023 HIV analysis found that a 20-year-old newly diagnosed with HIV in North America and Europe had an average life expectancy of 70.8 to 74.6 years

With the average U.S. life expectancy of about 76 years, HIV patients treated early can live a normal lifespan. 

Some can hope for a longer life expectancy with HIV.

Individuals who began treatment after 2015 have a slightly higher life expectancy than those who began earlier because of the significant improvements in Antiretroviral therapy. 

However, ongoing advancements in anti-HIV medications have made them better with fewer side effects.

Additionally, a better understanding of preventing and treating co-occurring conditions in people with HIV may lead to even longer life expectancy than current estimates suggest.

Factors affecting life expectancy with HIV

Several barriers can affect life expectancy with HIV/AIDS, including:

  • Opportunistic infections: People with weakened immune systems due to HIV are more susceptible to opportunistic infections, which can have a significant impact on their health and life expectancy
  • Age at diagnosis: People who are diagnosed with HIV at a younger age tend to have a longer life expectancy than those diagnosed at an older age
  • Gender: Women with HIV tend to have a slightly longer life expectancy than men with HIV
  • Stigma: Stigma associated with HIV can lead to discrimination and social isolation, which can negatively impact mental health and overall well-being
  • Healthcare access: Individuals who have access to high-quality healthcare and start treatment early tend to have a longer life expectancy than those who do not
  • Adherence to treatment: People with HIV who take their medicines as directed and keep their viral load below detection tend to live longer than those who don’t
  • Co-occurring conditions: People with HIV who have other health conditions, such as Hepatitis C or Diabetes, may have a shorter life expectancy than those without these conditions

By addressing these barriers and adopting healthy habits and lifestyle choices, people living with HIV can increase their life expectancy and enjoy a healthier, more fulfilling life.

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Ways to increase life expectancy with HIV

People living with HIV can increase their life expectancy by adopting healthy habits and lifestyle choices. 

These include:

Beginning treatment promptly

HIV treatment is most effective when initiated at early infection stages with high CD4 counts.

A CD4 count measures blood CD4 T-cells. 

HIV targets these white blood cells, destroying more over time. 

CD4 counts ranging from 0 to 1,300 or more indicate immune system strength.

Starting treatment when the CD4 is above 200 increases the likelihood of a 500-CD4 recovery, which is the normal count. 

However, if treatment is delayed, the CD4 count may never recover, leaving you prone to opportunistic infections.

Do not delay HIV treatment, as it may shorten the lifespan. Starting HIV therapy with a CD4 level under 200 affects life expectancy by eight years.

Avoiding injecting drugs

InjectionsSource: Dejan_Dundjerski_from_Getty_Images
Avoid injecting drugs

People with HIV/AIDS who inject drugs lose years of their lives because of other illnesses as well as HIV-related ones. 

They are also much more likely to get serious opportunistic diseases than people with HIV who don’t inject drugs. 

These people are also less likely to get or stick with their treatment.

Drug users are also more likely to get Hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases that can shorten people’s lives even more.

The life expectancy of HIV-positive patients who injected drugs and were not taking Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) was 19.1 years, with a significant number of potential years of life lost. 

Giving up smoking

Smokers living with HIV/AIDS lose more life-years due to smoking than any other single reason. 

Furthermore, smokers with HIV have twice the risk of death from smoking, shortening their lives by an average of 12 years.

People who have never smoked and have been virally suppressed have a slightly shorter life expectancy than 35-year-old men in the general population.

This difference in life span is caused by many things, including having HIV and people’s lifestyle choices.

Compared to the White population, Hispanic/Latinx people in the US have a four-fold higher chance of getting HIV and a two- to three-fold higher risk of dying from the infection.

Aging with HIV

More than half of people living with diagnosed HIV in the United States and dependent areas were aged 50 and up.

They must adapt to the physical and psychological changes that come with growing older.

Older people living with HIV also have an increased risk of Dementia, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, frailty, and some Cancers.

It’s common for older adults with HIV/AIDS to experience mental illness, especially Depression and addiction, and they tend to be more isolated. 

Older people living with HIV/AIDS should maintain a healthy lifestyle to improve life expectancy.

Furthermore, people who start HIV treatment early and adhere to it can live as long as people without HIV.


The life expectancy for individuals living with HIV has undergone a transformative evolution, marked by significant improvements in treatment and care. 

Initiating HIV treatment promptly, giving up smoking, and avoiding drug injections are crucial steps individuals can take to increase their life expectancy. 

Addressing factors such as opportunistic infections, age at diagnosis, gender, access to healthcare, adherence to treatment, etc., also play a pivotal role in determining the lifespan of those living with HIV.

As people with HIV/AIDS age, they may face unique health challenges, including an increased risk of conditions like Dementia, Diabetes, Osteoporosis, frailty, and certain cancers.

Early and consistent HIV treatment plays a key role in ensuring comparable lifespans to those without the virus.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can people with HIV live a normal lifespan?

Yes, with early detection, adherence to Antiretroviral treatment, and healthy lifestyle choices, people with HIV can now live near-normal lifespans, approaching or even matching the life expectancy of those without the virus.

Does HIV medication have side effects?

Yes, HIV medication produces side effects in some people. The side effects may vary depending on the type of medication and the individual. Some of the common side effects are nausea, fatigue, and changes in cholesterol levels. The specific side effects vary depending on the type of medication and the individual.

Can HIV be cured?

No, there is no cure for HIV. While Antiretroviral therapy effectively manages the virus, complete eradication from the body has not been achieved. Research continues, but a cure remains unknown.

Can HIV be transmitted through casual contact?

No, it is not possible for HIV to spread through casual contact. Unprotected sexual contact, sharing contaminated needles, and transmission from an infected mother to her child during childbirth or breastfeeding are the main ways that the virus is transmitted. There is no risk of transmission from casual contact.

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