Is HIV always fatal?

Since there is currently no way to get rid of HIV from the body once someone is infected, most people with HIV will probably still have the virus when they die.

Whether or not HIV/AIDS will be what causes someone’s death, however, is not always clear. People with HIV are still vulnerable to all of the other things that can kill someone, of course–other infections, cancer, accidents–so it is possible to have HIV and die of something else. This is probably not a cheerful thought, but just a reality check!

What many people want to know is whether it is possible to get HIV and live a normal, relatively healthy lifespan. HIV is often thought of as an incurable, fatal illness, and it certainly can be–especially once a person’s immune system is weakened to the point that he or she has AIDS. Without treatment, it takes an average of 10 years for someone who gets HIV to develop AIDS. Some people get AIDS much more quickly, while others do not get it until much later.

Without treatment, most people with HIV will eventually develop AIDS and die. In fact, most people with HIV in the world cannot afford the treatments that may allow them to stay healthy or live longer.

This is depressing, but there is hope. Since 1996, improved treatments for HIV have given many HIV-positive people renewed hope. While the treatments are not a cure and are far from perfect, they may help to keep people with HIV who are able to take them healthy for a long time.

How long? No one knows, really. Some people may do very well for many, many years. Others may eventually get sick and die despite being treated. There is a great need for research to find new and better treatments for HIV, so that the disease will not threaten people’s lives and cause so much suffering.

If you want to find out more about what is being done to make treatment more affordable and accessable