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10 Moments That Changed HIV Care This Year

December 13, 2013

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CD4 Count Rejection

CD4 Count Rejection

Every few months, HIV-positive people with consistent access to health care get a blood test to measure the number of CD4 cells in their blood. This "CD4 count" is one of the primary means by which a doctor gauges the immune health of a person with HIV. For many years, it's been the key measurement we've used to assess how far a person's HIV disease has progressed.

But is it really as important as we've been treating it?

A major study published earlier this year found that, among people who are on HIV medications and have a suppressed viral load, CD4 counts are extremely unlikely to fall. That calls into question the value of getting a CD4 count taken as often as people tend to have them done.

Now, you might think: If a CD4 count is still valuable info to have, why not keep doing the testing? The answer: cost. The same study estimated that, if a person with a CD4 count over 300 who's on effective HIV treatment only got a CD4 test once a year instead of every few months, it would save the health care system $41,000 per person per year.

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