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What undetectable really means?

Feb 26, 2005

Helo Dr. Mark and thanks for taking the time to answer this question. I was just diagnosed positive and as you can imagine my life has changed drastically. I am trying to read as much as I can to understand what will happen to my mind and body in the coming months and years. My question relates to what people mean when they say that after taking HIV medicine, their virus load becomes almost or totally undetectable. Do they mean that if they take the ELIZA test, the test will say negative? I am sorry if this is a silly question but I am confused with the expresion.


Response from Dr. Holodniy

Not silly at all. The ELISA tests detects antibodies your body makes as a reaction to HIV infection. This test will always be positive no matter how many times its performed in the future. The HIV viral load test measures the amount of virus you have in blood plasma, usually expressed as copies/mL. Viral load is a good measure of the risk of disease progression (higher the copy number greater the risk) and treatment response. Many people who start HIV medications with a detectable viral load will see their viral load go to "undetectable" levels. This means that the viral load is < 50 copies/mL or below the level of detection for the assay.

Blood Tests and HIV

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