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Newly diagnosed with high viral load
Apr 17, 2006

I'm an 18 year old HIV + male. I was diagnosed as of December and I just got my CD4 count and viral load and I'm hysterical. My viral load is 100,000 and my CD4 count is around 200. I'm not on medication and I'm scheduled to see a infectious disease doctor in January 17th, do I have enough time to get better and get my viral load to undetectable or am I'm going to get AIDS? please help

Response from Dr. Pierone

Hello and sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. Shock and dismay are natural reactions to a diagnosis of HIV, especially when the first set of blood tests show a relatively low CD4 count and viral load on the high side.

Now that it is April you likely have at least one more blood measurement of CD4 lymphocyte count and viral load and may already be on medications.

One point that I think is important to highlight is that a diagnosis of AIDS (CD4 count less than 200 or opportunistic infection) now is not what it used to be. Before there was effective antiretroviral therapy a diagnosis of AIDS was linked to a high death rate. 90 plus percent of those diagnosed with an AIDS-related opportunistic infection were dead within 2 years of diagnosis in the 1980's. This is no longer the case. For those with access to combination therapy we expect to see reconstitution of CD4 counts and immune function in response to treatment. We also expect a near-normal life expectancy for those newly diagnosed with HIV infection who have the wherewithal to adhere to HAART. Our team cares for many patients who were diagnosed with AIDS more than 5 years ago and currently are on a stable regimen with an undetectable viral load and progressively rising CD4 counts. Although they were diagnosed with AIDS in the past they are well, working full time, and living life. My point is that even if your CD4 count drops to 199 before you start therapy and you are officially diagnosed with AIDS, so what? Is there any practical difference if the CD4 count was 201 and you were diagnosed with HIV instead of AIDS?

So to finally answer your question, yes, you have enough time to get your viral load undetectable and rebuild your immune system.

Best wishes to you and let us know how things are going.

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