When people discuss HIV, you’ll often hear terms like CD4 count and Viral Load being thrown around, as if you did higher-grade extra Biology in matric. Truth be told, they’re pretty easy to understand, once you break them down as follows:
What the heck is Viral Load (VL), and what’s the diff between CD4 and VL?
Your viral load is the amount of HIV found in a blood sample. A CD4 count is a blood test that measures the number of CD4 cells in a sample of your blood. In people with HIV, it’s a strong indicator of how well your immune system is working and an accurate predictor of HIV progression. The goal is to get your VL down to undetectable levels.
Why should I test to check my VL, and how often?
If you are HIV-positive, you can begin antiretroviral therapy (ART) immediately, whatever your VL may be. Having your VL tested regularly is to monitor how the ART is succeeding in keeping your viral load down to control the virus. Having an undetectable load does not mean that the virus is gone from the body and ART is still required to remain healthy. You should test your VL every 6 to 12 months.
Where can I test my VL?
Click here to find a Health4Men Clinic near to you.
Why should I keep my VL low?
If your VL goes down once you start ART, then it means the ARV treatment is working. Low VL greatly lowers the chances of you transmitting the virus to someone who is HIV-negative via sex or drug use, but HIV infection is still possible.
How you can keep your VL low?
By taking your ARVs religiously every day at the same time to prevent developing a drug-resistant strain of the virus, and avoiding exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), because STIs can also increase your VL.
What else do I need to know?
ART and a low VL won’t cure HIV, but it can help to ensure that you live a long and healthy life.