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no viral load means what?

May 19, 2010

Dr Bob, i've been diagnosed positive today while my doctor told me that a treatment can bring my viral load to zero. Does that mean that one day I can dream of being HIV negative, and does that mean i can become HIV free? Thank you for your support while I trust your reply, Sam

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Sam,

Your doctor was incorrect if he told you he could bring your HIV plasma viral load to zero. Most likely what he said (or at least meant) was that with successful combination antiretroviral therapy he could drive your HIV plasma viral load down to "undetectable" levels. That's very different from zero virus. Zero virus would be a cure and we do not yet have a cure for HIV. All HIV viral load tests have limits of detection down to which they can measure HIV. Below this level HIV is still present; we just can't detect it with our currently available HIV viral load tests. Think of hiding 5,000 needles in a haystack. If you search and search, you may find 4,000 or even 4,500, whatever. Chances are there will be some needles you won't be able to find. This would be analogous to HIV remaining in the blood even when someone's HIV viral load result is "undetectable." You can read more about this in the archives of this forum and elsewhere on this site. Also, I'd suggest you check out the "Just Diagnosed" chapter on The Body's homepage.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob

Please Dr. Bob, I'm worried sick. Please, please help me.
Concerned about infecting via car accident

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