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Want to help
Feb 2, 2004

Namibia: My mother was just diagnosed with HIV in December, tested after visited the doctor for uncontrolable diarhearr and vomitting. Her CD4 count is 300, still waiting on her viral load results. Not sure how long she's been positive. However, have noticed the weight loss constantly deteriorating since 1992. I am the only child and want to support her though this. She is extremely secretive about her personal affairs and get the feeling she is still in denial.

However, there is so much I do not know about the desease to be off assistance to her.

My question is what exactly is the relationship between CD4 count and viral load and when does the situation become critical. I would also appreciate some advise on how I should assist her emotionally.

Response from Dr. Pierone

Sorry to hear about your mother. There is an inverse relationship between CD4 and viral load. In general, the lower the CD4 count, the higher the viral load. But even with a relatively low viral load the CD4 count tends to decline over many years. There are many exceptions to this pattern though.

The CD4 count is a measure of immune status and function; the viral load is a measure of viral activity and replication. Typically, the higher the viral load, the more rapidly one loses CD4 cells and progresses to AIDS.

A CD4 count of 300 is actually not bad and the symptoms that led to the HIV test may be related to some other condition. With regard to CD4 cells, things become serious below 200 and critical below 50 (again, there are exceptions). The best advice to assist her emotionally is to let her know that you love her and are there for her. Maintain a positive outlook and share this with her. Good luck!

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