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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 HIV/AIDS will be what causes someone's death, however, is not always clear. People with HIV are still vulnerable to all 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. That is probably not a cheerful thought, but just a reality check! HIV is often thought of as an incurable, fatal illness, and it certainly can be without treatment--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.

HIV treatment does not cure HIV, and people with HIV still may experience complications related to HIV treatment and HIV infection. However, the current outlook for people with HIV has improved tremendously and HIV-infected people with access to medicines and medical care can live long, healthy lives. A person diagnosed at age 25 who receives good medical care is estimated to live 40 more years.

If you want to find out more about what is being done to make treatment more affordable and accessable, check out HIV InSite's Access to Medications Links page.