The average latency or incubation period for the human immunodeficiency virus is 10 years. Some people may progress through the latency stage faster, while those on antiretroviral therapy may live in the incubation period for several decades, notes AIDS.gov.
After infection, the human immunodeficiency virus develops in the body without producing any symptoms. During this stage, the virus reproduces at low levels and may produce mild symptoms. Treatment options such as antiretroviral therapy keep the virus in check and enable the affected person to live through the latency stage for several decades. The viral load of people who are not on antiretroviral therapy increases gradually, and they advance to the acute immunodeficiency syndrome stage in about 10 years, claims AIDS.gov.
Individuals with HIV progress through the incubation period at different rates. Factors that affect the duration of the latency stage include the overall health of the patient before infection, the stage at which diagnosis and treatment plans are made, and the genetic makeup of the patient. Other lifestyle and health choices such as smoking, maintaining healthy diets and exercising also influence the rate of HIV progression. The incubation period may be shortened by old age, severe stress and co-infection with other viruses, states AIDS.gov.