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Can you have HIV for 20 years and no symptoms?

African-American woman scientist looking into a microscope.

HIV research scientist (Photo: Flickr/US Army Africa)

Can you have HIV for 20 years and no symptoms?

August 16, 2013

Q: Can you have HIV for 20 years without any symptoms? If so, would there be any abnormalities in the CBC blood test or elevated red/white blood cell counts?

A: Yes, it is possible but very rare. Some persons are known to be immune to HIV and it does not cause any symptoms in them. But why this occurs is not known. People who have the rare Delta32 gene are immune from HIV. But it is estimated that only 1% of people have both copies of this gene. These persons would continue to be HIV positive without having any symptoms for 20 years or longer.

HIV can cause a decrease in both RBC and CBC. But you are asking about persons who do not have any symptoms from HIV. In that case there would not be any changes in the blood cell counts.

-- Answer from Dr. P. Jyoti, a physician on JustAnswer.

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