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Newly Diagnosed and confused with counts.

Oct 10, 2009

63 yr old male suffered heart attack in January 2009, became very ill early July and diagnosed HIV+ in early August. Late August after severe pain diagnosed with a perforated colon and had major surgery leaving me with a colostomy to be reversed in the coming months. I am still extremely tired for the most part and do not know if this is due to the surgery or HIV. Initial Viral Load count was 28,800 and CD4 at 542. I was told both of these counts were in relatively good range, but am to unknowledgeable to question. Though waited till 3 weeks after receiving the colostomy, doctors felt HIV treatment could be started. The doctor said I could wait, but why not get started early. I will get new counts in next couple of weeks. No one mentioned any CD4 percent figure and will ask. But, what do the origin numbers noted above reflect. Are they good or bad? After 6 weeks of HIV med's what would be acceptable changes in the viral load and CD4 counts. I am totally confused and just now trying to read up, but I would like to be prepared when I hear the counts from my next blood work. What does "copies" mean that I see in many inquiries by people sending in questions?

Response from Dr. Holodniy

The original numbers are relatively good. Your CD4 count is in the normal range (500-1500) and your viral load is in the low-moderate range. HIV treatment is not necessarily required at this point. Some experts might argue that given your age, starting earlier would better help preserve your immune system. Although we know that our immune system declines with age (regardless of HIV infection), whether starting sooner in someone like you provides an advantage, is not known. The viral load is expressed as copies per milliliter of blood. This tells you how many copies of virus there per unit volume of blood.

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