a group of people with hearts for bodies. The hearts are expressing gratitude and joy with bursting patterns

Community Responses: How Long Can You Live with HIV?

Too often, the media gets it wrong. HIV is portrayed as a diagnosis that ends life immediately—but this could not be farther from the truth.

Today, many people with an HIV diagnosis are doing what was once the impossible: they are living full lives, decades after learning they were positive. Antiretroviral therapy, aka ART, is helping people stay healthy—sometimes even symptom-free. Although ART is not a cure, it saves lives and also prevents the transmission of HIV.

To find out what life with HIV looks like for the community at large, we reached out on the H-I-V.net Facebook community, asking: “How long can a person live with HIV?”

More than 600 people reacted, and more than 300 people responded. Here’s what you had to say.

Living with HIV for over 20 years

Many of you are staying healthy 30 years or more since learning of your positive status. Those of you who have been living with HIV for 30+ years show no signs of sickness or slowing down but, rather, are enjoying life and still have much to look forward to.

“I have been living for 30 years beyond my diagnosis. I am 53 years old and I have been living with HIV for more than half of my life.”

“It is so uplifting to read all these comments. I have been positive 32 years. Many times I have found it is not yet my last breath yet. I have whiplash from moving from despair to gratitude so often. Today I am grateful and optimistic at 58.”

“I am going on 64 here. I was diagnosed at 29. I am thankful to still be here to carry on for all those who were not able to be here to do so.”

“I have been positive for 37 years. I am 65 years old.”

“I have been living with HIV for 20 years.”

“Harry my husband is 38 years in now with HIV. He has been on meds for about 18 years. He has some permanent deficits from starting (meds) a bit late but he is still going strong.”

“I have been living with HIV for 20 years and am going strong.”

HIV impacts everyone differently

This diagnosis, like many, affects people differently. There are many in the community who shared that their course with HIV is not what they feared. They are living long lives, and the symptoms they experience are not anywhere near as devastating as they first thought they would be.

“I found out on my birthday in 1993. So I am going into my 27th year with HIV. I have been asymptomatic the entire time. Looking forward to being around many more healthy years.”

“In 2020 I will be 38 years positive, and I am 62. I consider myself part of the first wave that hit New York City in the very early 80s when I was in my early 20s, and I am here to tell you I have never suffered a day from HIV, unlike my two best friends who died right away and dozens more who suffered unimaginably. I do not know why I was spared.”

Exceeding doctors' expectations

Several of you shared that it has been a blessing how wrong the doctors were. A few of you were told by doctors that you did not have long to live, and that has not turned out to be the case at all. You beat the odds by decades.

“I tested positive with very advanced AIDS in 1994 and was given 6 months to a year to live. I am still here after 25 years and work full time. Life is good.”

We want to say thank you to everyone in the community who shared. You give so much hope and encouragement to us all, so thank you.

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