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How is viral load measured? (unit used)

Jul 19, 2000

I've recently had a friend move in my home who tested positive when the HIV test was first made available in '85. Donate blood from '82 also contained the virus confirmed by the CDC. His viral load and T cell count have both dropped according to his last blood work-up. In an attempt to get a rather quick education I would like to ask how the viral load and T cell counts are measured? He recently went from 650,000 to approx. 250,000. T cell went from 18 to 8. Seems rather drastic for a 1 mo. period. Is this normal?

Response from Dr. Holodniy

Not knowing any of the treatment history it's hard to comment. However, a CD4 cell change from 18 to 8 is not significant. Cells are measured in # cells/mm3, or in percentage of CD4 cells. Likewise at such high viral load levels, a change from 250-650,000 is actually within assay variability. We usually look for changes of greater than 3 fold (3 times) up or down in viral load. Viral load is measured as copies/ml of plasma. MH

CD4 Count dropping
How sensitive a VL test?

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