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Where does HIV go? Part 2
May 14, 2008

With the utmost due respect, I don't think the May 10 question, "Where does HIV go?" was sufficiently answered. The questioner raised an intruiqing, albeit admittedly naive, question. I imagine he understands that drugs prevent new viruses from being made, but don't kill any viruses. So where did the viruses making up the former viral load go if they weren't killed by the virus? Were they killed by CTL, by other factors in the blood, etc. or did they just die in the cell or with the cell as the cell died? (If so, why would all those cells die so quickly to get the viral load down so fast?) I guess the answer would depend on whether viral load is a plasma load or a cellular load measurement??

Response from Dr. Henry

The life span of an HIV virus floating around in the blood is around a day. If new virus production is shut down with treatment then viral levels can drop dramatically within days/weeks of starting an effective regimen as the body clears circulating virus through trapping and destruction throughout the lymph system. Ordinarily such processes can result in new rounds of infection but the presence of effective HIV medications protects uninfected cells from new infection. KH



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