Smoking Drug And Alcohol Use
Smoking, drug use, and alcohol can affect the health of a person with HIV in a multitude of ways.
First, these substances can weaken the immune system. HIV attacks the immune system, so engaging in drugs and alcohol exacerbates that damage. This can make it even harder for your body to fight off infection and disease.
Second, drugs and alcohol can affect the liver. People who have HIV are prone to developing two types of hepatitishepatitis B and hepatitis C . Having HIV and a form of hepatitis at the same time is called coinfection.
Third, drugs and alcohol can interact with medicine, especially HIV medications. A drug interaction can potentially damage your body, impact the treatments effect, or cause adverse side effects. Cases have reported overdoses between HIV medications and recreational drugs such as ecstasy , crystal meth, and ketamine .
Managing Hiv On A Daily Basis
Nathaniel takes one tablet a day, which keeps his HIV at undetectable levels. We now know that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus to partners . Nathaniel says this has revolutionised the lives and relationships of people living with HIV.
“My current partner takes PrEP , which helps protect him from contracting HIV as well. The psychological impact of the diagnosis still needs day-to-day management, however, as I also have complex PTSD and generalised anxiety. I try to eat well and exercise regularly, and stress management is really important.”
Musa echoes the importance of self-care, as HIV has become integrated into her life.
“Apart from taking daily antiretroviral treatment, I’m just doing what is necessary for every other person to live a healthy lifestyle. HIV is part of my life. There’s no ‘HIV special plan’. It falls under health and wellness and general management alongside my other chronic conditions. There’s no exception for HIV so it doesn’t hold me back.”
You May Experience More Emotional Problems
The stigma of HIV can lead to emotional problems, including depression. Older people with HIV may have a sense of lost community and social support. Experiencing issues with cognition can also lead to depression and emotional distress.
As you get older, its essential that you find ways to maintain your emotional health. Stay connected with loved ones, engage yourself in a fulfilling hobby, or consider joining a support group.
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How It Feels To Be Diagnosed With Hiv
“I always describe that moment like being hit by a truck,” says 35-year-old Nathaniel Hall.
“I was diagnosed in 2003 and, although effective HIV medication was around, it was still considered a chronic illness, so the diagnosis came with the heaviness of a life-limiting disease. I think I may actually have blacked out momentarily when I heard. I was only 16.”
Nathaniel had only recently come out, and was still working through his internalised homophobia.
“I felt like my sexuality had to be inherently wrong because it was being punished with this disease. There was a lot of shame that controlled my life for a long time afterwards,” he says.
Likewise, Bisi Alimi, 46, had his world changed forever when he was diagnosed with HIV in 2004.
“It was 17 years ago, but it feels like yesterday I went into that booth to take the test. At the time of my diagnosis, I was still dealing with losing my best friend, who died due to complications of AIDS. So, when I was told I was positive, I broke down. I looked at the future I had dreamed of all my life and felt I would never be able to achieve my dreams,” he shares.
How Is Hiv Diagnosed
HIV is diagnosed with either a test of your blood or your spit . You can take a test at home, in a healthcare providers office or at a location that provides testing in your community.
If your test comes back negative, no further testing is required if:
- You havent had a possible exposure in the previous three months before testing with any kind of test.
- You havent had a possible exposure within the window period for a test done with a blood draw.
If you have had a possible exposure within three months of testing, you should consider retesting to confirm the negative result.
If your test comes back positive, the lab may do follow-up tests to confirm the result.
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When And Who Should Get Tested
The CDC recommends that anyone between ages 13 and 64 should have them tested for the infection. It is important to undergo a repeat test if you have changed your sexual partner. In most cases, you should have your HIV test after 3 months of engaging in sexual activity with a new partner. Some people are at high risk for contracting the virus this is true for IV drug users, homosexual males, and those who change sex partners often. For them, it is important to go for HIV testing every 6-12 months.
Your body may have enough antibodies after 3 months of becoming infected some people may have those antibodies within 20 days of becoming infected. Therefore, it is a good idea to go for testing every six months, especially if you have had unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex with a different partner during this time. To get tested, you can go to your local health department, doctor’s office, or hospital. Nowadays, special sites are set up to help you with HIV testing these testing sites keep your data private and share it only with medical experts authorized to see your record.
Risk of HIV
It is worth mentioning that certain factors put you at an increased risk of becoming infected. For instance, you are likely to contract the HIV virus if:
You should talk to your healthcare provider to get more information regarding how long can HIV go undetected and how often you should go for HIV testing.
Managing Hiv Alongside Other Conditions
Thanks to advances in HIV treatment and care, HIV life expectancy has improved exponentially. Were now seeing the first generation of people living with HIV entering later life and accessing later life care.7
As we all get older, regardless of HIV status, our health gets more complicated. People living with HIV can develop the same age-related conditions that affect everyone such as heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease or diabetes. Living with a chronic condition like HIV, also increases the risk of developing other health conditions and certain cancers.2,8
Co-ordinating your care and balancing the medications for these conditions alongside your existing HIV treatment is an essential factor in maintaining a high quality of life as we age.9
Keeping your doctor up to date
Here, Xiana talks about the importance of telling her doctor about her healthcare needs as they evolve over time.
A World of Difference
In this clip from the Positively thriving podcast Tom, Brad and Bryan talk about long-term health, ageing well with HIV, and the benefits of being completely open with your healthcare team.
Listen to the full episode ofPositively Thriving: A World of Difference
HIV & other conditions
There are some health conditions that people living with HIV have a higher risk of developing. Even common illnesses can be more serious for people living with HIV they can get worse faster than they normally would.
Also Check: How Hiv Is Transmitted During Intercourse
How Long Does A Person With Hiv Live
With early diagnosis and proper treatment, people with HIV can live a healthy and long life. There is no generalized definitive period for which a person with HIV can live. In the case of untreated HIV infection, the overall mortality rate is more than 90%. The average time from infection to death is 8 to 10 years. This may, however, vary from person to person. Many factors that affect survival include:
In the early days, the life expectancy and quality of life were drastically reduced in people with HIV. They would progress to AIDS within 10 years after which they would hardly live for more than two years.
With the advances in diagnosis and treatment, people with HIV infection can be diagnosed and put on an excellent treatment regimen before their immunity declines significantly. They are thus also protected from various opportunistic infections and cancers. Moreover, there are good tests available to monitor how well the infection is controlled. This enables timely change in treatment if one treatment regimen does not work well for a person. With the increasing use of ART and the introduction of better antiviral regimens, survival with HIV infection has increased over time. The survival, however, is generally not yet equivalent to that in uninfected individuals.
Growing Older With Hiv
Today, thanks to improvements in the effectiveness of treatment with HIV medicine , people with HIV who are diagnosed early and who get and stay on ART can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, nearly half of people living with diagnosed HIV in the United States are aged 50 and older. Many of them have been living with HIV for many years others were diagnosed with HIV later in life.
Thats a significant change from the early years of the epidemic when people who were diagnosed with HIV or AIDS could expect to live only 1-2 years after their diagnosis. This meant that the issues of aging were not a major focus for people with HIV disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , in 2018, over half of people in the United States and dependent areas with diagnosed HIV were aged 50 and older. In addition, people aged 50 and older accounted for 17% of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses in 2018 in the United States and dependent areas. Though new HIV diagnoses are declining among people aged 50 and older, around 1 in 6 HIV diagnoses in 2018 were in this group.
People over age 50 with HIV make up 46.8% of the over half a million clients served by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program . In 2019, 92.2% of clients aged 50 and older receiving RWHAP HIV medical care were virally suppressed, which was higher than the national RWHAP average .
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How Has Treatment Improved
Antiretroviral medications can help to slow damage caused by HIV infection and prevent it from developing into stage 3 HIV, or AIDS.
A healthcare provider will recommend undergoing antiretroviral therapy. This treatment requires taking three or more antiretroviral medications daily. The combination helps suppress the amount of HIV in the body . Pills that combine multiple medications are available.
The different classes of antiretroviral drugs include:
- non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
- integrase inhibitors
Viral-load suppression allows people with HIV to live healthy lives and decreases their chances of developing stage 3 HIV. The other benefit of an undetectable viral load is that it helps reduce transmission of HIV.
The 2014 European PARTNER study found that the risk of HIV transmission is very small when a person has an undetectable load. This means that the viral load is below 50 copies per milliliter .
This discovery has led to an HIV prevention strategy known as treatment as prevention. It promotes constant and consistent treatment as a way to reduce the spread of the virus.
HIV treatment has evolved tremendously since the onset of the epidemic, and advancements continued to be made. Initial reports from a clinical trial in the United Kingdom and a from the United States showed promising results in experimental HIV treatments that could put the virus into remission and boost immunity.
Factors That Reduce Life Expectancy
Despite these advances, there are factors that can increase or decrease the life expectancy of people with HIV. These range from things we can control to things we can’t .
These factors not only influence not only how a person responds to treatment but whether they are able to access treatment in the first place. Because of this, how long a person with HIV could live with HIV is often very different from an individual standpoint.
Moreover, HIV is only part of the long-term concern. Even among those on treatment, the risk of non-HIV-associated diseases, like cancer or heart disease, is far greater than in the general population and can occur anywhere from 10 to 15 years earlier.
So serious are these concerns that a person living with HIV today is far more likely to die prematurely of a non-HIV-related illness than an HIV-related one.
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Telling Your Partner And Former Partners
If you have HIV, it’s important your current sexual partner and any sexual partners you’ve had since becoming infected are tested and treated.
Some people can feel angry, upset or embarrassed about discussing HIV with their current or former partners. Discuss your concerns with a GP or the clinic staff.
They’ll be able to advise you about who should be contacted and the best way to contact them, or they may be able to contact them on your behalf.
They’ll also advise you about disclosing your status to future partners and how you can reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to someone else.
Nobody can force you to tell any of your partners you have HIV, but it’s strongly recommended that you do.
Left untested and untreated, HIV can have devastating consequences, and eventually lead to serious illness and death.
What The Current Research Says
At the time of the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy in 1996, the average life expectancy of a 20-year-old newly infected with HIV was 10 years. With a new generation of drugs that are not only safer but more effective, those numbers have leaped significantly.
According to research from the longstanding North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design , a 20-year-old started on HIV therapy today can expect to live into their early 70s.
With the life expectancy of the general U.S. population hovering around 77 years, this means that people treated early for HIV can enjoy near-normal life expectancies. Some can expect to do much better.
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What Will Happen If I Dont Take Hiv Treatment
Without treatment, nearly everyone with HIV becomes ill.
Over time, when HIV has done a lot of damage to your immune system, you’re likely to become vulnerable to infections that you would otherwise have been able to fight off.
The damage that HIV causes happens slowly, often over a number of years.
Treatment protects you. A person with HIV who is taking treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV and can expect to live a normal lifespan.
Life Expectancy With Hiv: How Long Can Someone Live With Hiv
The research on HIV, its symptoms and causes has been done since years, and the same is in continuation. As of now there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but there are medications and treatment which can make the remaining life of the patient easier, and extend the duration of the patients life. As, HIV can be distinguished or categorized in three different stages, the life expectancy for different stage is different and also depends upon the infected percentage of your immune system.
As per the statistics reported from 1996-1997, an HIV positive person has a life expectancy of almost 19 years, say if the person has been found infected at the age of 20, he shall live further till he is 39-40 years old. However, there has been an immense inclination found in life expectancy since then, and as reported in the year 2011, the increased life span of 19 years was found to extend up to 53 years, where supposedly if a person is found HIV positive at the age of 20, he can live as long as 73-74 years old.
A HIV positive woman has lesser life expectancy than men, but with the advanced treatment methods, the life expectancy in the current scenario has been increased, where initially it was reported to be around 38 years old and now has been found to extend up to 49 years old. The increase in the life expectancy of a person with HIV has increased thanks to the advanced medicines and treating methods.
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The Takeaway: Great News But Also A Reminder Of Our Current Challenges
Taken as a whole, these encouraging life expectancy findings show that, for people with access to quality health care who begin HIV treatment early, a normal life span isnt just possibleits quite likely. Our results are likely generalizable to the broader insured population, Marcus noted.
However, even within this cohort of members of a major U.S. health care organization, only 29% had a CD4 count of 500 or higher when they started antiretroviral therapy. That will temper the rosy message somewhat, although theres still good news in the overall shrinking of the life-expectancy gap to under a decade between people living with HIV and HIV-negative people. The need for improvements in access to and retention in HIV care are clear.
In addition, the size and persistence of the gaps we see in comorbidity-free years provide a stark reminder about the work researchers and health care providers have ahead of them in adequately preventing, diagnosing, and managing significant health complications in people who are living with HIV. We are solidly in an era in which an HIV diagnosis no longer has to mean a shorter life the challenge we now face is to also ensure that an HIV diagnosis doesnt mean a less-healthy life.