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Viral Load
Jul 21, 1999

My husband was recently diagnosed HIV+ (my first test was negative). His T-cell count is 231 and viral load 171,000. Please explain what viral load is and what is considered high. I have very little indepth knowledge of the disease and any help you can give is greatly appreciated. I am getting the feeling from his doctors that his situation is not good, but we will be starting treatment soon. Any tips on precautions I should take in caring for my husband.

Response from Dr. Holodniy

His viral load is quite high and his T cells are moderately low, but not that bad. Viral load is a measure of the number of HIV virus copies that are circulating per milliliter of blood plasma. It is used to get an assessment of the stage of HIV disease and the risk for progression to AIDS. Your husband is right at the stage of early AIDS. The viral load is also used to monitor the effects of therapy. Given that this is the first time he will be receiving treatment (I agree he needs to be treated now), it is highly likely that his viral load will fall below 50 copies/ml (what is defined as undetectable viral load) and that his CD4 count will increase to 400 or more. So there is reason to be very optimistic. MH



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