Viral Load

Posted October 2, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read

Your viral load gives you an idea of how much of the HIV virus is in your body. The test measures the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood.

Uses of Viral load test

  • Viral load test results help your doctor follow what’s happening with your infection, how well your treatment is working, and guide treatment choices.

  • HIV viral load predicts how fast the disease will progress, while other tests, like the CD4 count, indicate how much damage the virus has already caused.

  • The test can also help diagnose recent HIV infection in someone with inconclusive HIV antibody tests.

  • However, in these cases, a subsequent positive HIV antibody test should be used to confirm the diagnosis.

  • Keeping your viral load low will keep your immune system healthy, make complications of HIV less likely and help you live longer.

  • It is possible if you adhere to your treatment to obtain a normal, or near-normal life expectancy.

What the Viral load test results Mean?

  • A high viral load is generally considered about 100,000 copies, but you could have 1 million or more.

  • The virus is at work making copies of itself, and the disease may progress quickly.

  • A lower HIV viral load is below 10,000 copies.

  • The virus probably isn’t actively reproducing as fast, and damage to your immune system may be slowed, but this is not optimal.

  • A viral load that can’t be detected less than 20 copies is always the goal of HIV treatment.

  • This doesn’t mean you’re cured. Unfortunately, the virus is still able to survive in various cells in the body.

  • But maintaining an undetectable viral load is compatible with a normal, or near-normal life span.

  • Continuing to take your medicine as prescribed to keep the virus undetectable is very important.

  • When your HIV viral load is undetectable, there is little to no risk of infecting others, but most doctors still advise using condoms to prevent acquiring other strains of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

When to go for viral load test?

  • Right after you’re diagnosed, you should get a viral load test for a baseline measurement.

  • That gives your doctor something to compare future test results to.

  • When you start or change medicine, a test about 4 weeks afterwards helps your doctor decide how well it’s working.

  • An effective drug combination, taken as prescribed, can often drop the HIV viral load to one-tenth of what it was within a month.

  • The viral load is generally undetectable by 3 months, nearly always by 6 months.

  • After that, you should get a test as often as your doctor recommends to see how your medications are controlling the virus.

  • If your HIV seems to be under control, you can probably be tested less frequently.

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