The average time for HIV infection to progress to AIDS is 10 to 11 years for people who do not take antiretrovirals. In people with very high HIV viral load, AIDS may develop sooner (within 5 years after infection). Once HIV infection has progressed to AIDS, there is an increased risk of death that varies dramatically from person to person. For example, some people with AIDS have died shortly after they were diagnosed, whereas others have lived 12 years or more.
Because very potent medication against HIV has only been available since 1996, we do not yet know how long people will live with HIV infection if they are tested early and treated appropriately. The outlook, however, is very good, especially for those who begin antiretrovirals at an early stage of the disease. If you are infected with HIV, it is best to find out as soon as possible so that treatment can be started before the immune system is weakened. Since potent antiretrovirals became available in the United States, the number of AIDS-related deaths and hospitalizations has decreased dramatically. The AIDS-related death rate in some parts of the developing world, however, remains staggeringly high due to lack of access to life-saving antiretrovirals.
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