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Living with HIV long term

long term diagnosed

HIV medication is very effective and if you’re diagnosed and start treatment on time you can expect to live a normal lifespan. If you’re on effective treatment and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

In the 1980s and 1990s so little was known about HIV that if you survived more than a couple of years with the virus, you would be called a ‘long-term survivor’. We have come a long way since then. HIV is now a manageable, long-term condition and treatment means you can protect your own health and avoid passing on HIV.

What are the current guidelines for starting HIV treatment?

In the UK, national guidelines recommend that anyone with HIV who is ready to commit to treatment should start taking it, regardless of their CD4 count.

The guidelines were changed in September 2015 to reflect the findings of the START study. It found that people who waited to start treatment until their CD4 count dropped to 350 (which is when people were previously advised to start treatment) had a much higher chance of developing AIDS-related illnesses.

Starting treatment when your CD4 count is above 500 reduces the risk of death or serious illness by 53%.

We also now know that a person with HIV who is taking treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV. It can take up to six months on treatment for some people to become undetectable.

Meet HIV+ people in the myHIV forum

Long-term health challenges

Research suggests that if you start treatment while your CD4 count is still high, you can expect to live as long as if you didn’t have HIV.

This also means that you will need to consider how to manage your health into your old age, as you learn to live with the inevitable effects of ageing in addition to being HIV positive.

As well as treatment, a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are important ways to keep your immune system strong, and to ensure that you’re not making it easy for a serious opportunistic infection to attack you.

What help is available to help me manage my HIV?

Living with HIV long term can present you with new challenges – for instance, it might get harder to keep taking your medication as time goes on. We’ve got online tools which can help to make that easier for you.

If you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, seek the help of THT Direct (freephone 0808 802 1221) who will be able to give information on local counselling or support.

We also run online peer support groups on our community forums on weekday evenings and weekends.

More on staying healthy with HIV:



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  • i just need your advise how would you feel if in your work place the majority of staff members knows about your diagnosis after you had been newly diagnosed.

    Posted 17:52 Thu 08 Nov 2012
  • This comment is awaiting moderation

    Posted 12:16 Wed 06 Mar 2013
  • I told my HR manager and my line manager and they were fantastic. This gave me the emotional strength to "mention in conversation" to others that I was HIV+. Every body has treated me like a earth person not an alien.

    Posted 00:54 Sat 16 Mar 2013
  • a************@hotmail.com

    THT an organisation that to me has lost its values in the traditions of why the THT was founded back in 1983 after the death of Terrance Higgins,
    An Organisation that has left behind log term survivors like myself to get on with life.
    And Organisation that doesn't want to understand nor respond to the real needs of survivors that return to them for real support.
    And when given support become bullies and if they dont like what your trying to spell out to them will hang the phone up in your ear.
    When questioned about what happened to the Vision and insight into what the role of the THT was founded for and why the changes which has effected
    long term survivors lives in may ways , why they refuse to address them and answer what has gone wrong with the THT.
    he Board of Directors seem to lack insight ,compassion and haven't a clue what mental anxiety can be like to have in a persons life.
    THT is a comfy office job that pays very decent salaries but i sincerely question their policies and roles when it comes to people with HIV who find them selves in a crisis.
    I feel that the THT is rune like ant business today, it lacks heart and soul and has no real vision and adequate outreach fro those,who rely and depend on aa HIV Organisation.
    In my humble opinion thy have sold off what was essentanly what was our safe house , the London Light House they claim there in no need for it anymore.
    making a healthy earnings from the sale of this property I can only expect that HIV + people will not gain a thing from this yet the staff will almost certainly gain a decent pay rise for whatever they are assignend to do .
    I know i am not alone in what i have spoken here , i have talked this through with many long term survivors all who gel as i do forgotten and left behind.

    They are the winners and we are the outright losers, yet they makes so may statements about their role at the tht to gain funding and donations to pay their salaries.
    while they haven't a clue of the suffering and distress some are really in.
    Id be grateful to know if there are others out there that ralte full to what I have said here .
    Phil M

    Posted 11:29 Tue 21 Jul 2015
  • Hi i amAngelica i have 27 years i take HIV when i wass little from the Romania hospital wher im born.Now i have a family a good husband and a little boy they are not sick we live in UK.Me i want to find a job near to my house becsuse only my husband work and is hard to live when u have a family. Im afraid the people to dont refuse me if i say about my healt problem if someone cand help me whit a job pls tell me

    Posted 12:51 Fri 06 Jan 2017

The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 24/11/2015 by Anna Peters

Date due for the next review: 24/11/2018

Content Author: Kerri Virani

Current Owner: Health promotion

More information:

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BHIVA guidelines for the treatment of HIV-1-positive adults with antiretroviral therapy 2015, Writing Group: Duncan Churchill Chair Laura Waters Vice Chair N Ahmed, B Angus, M Boffito, M Bower, D Dunn, S Edwards, C Emerson, S Fidler, †M Fisher, R Horne, S Khoo, C Leen, N Mackie, N Marshall, F Monteiro, M Nelson, C Orkin, A Palfreeman, S Pett, A Phillips, F Post, A Pozniak, I Reeves, C Sabin, R Trevelion, J Walsh, E Wilkins, I Williams, A Winston

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START trial provides definitive evidence of the benefits of early HIV treatment, NAM, Aidsmap, Liz Highleyman; Produced in collaboration with hivandhepatitis.com, 21/7/15

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