Viral Load Increase

Question

I tested positive in Nov 2002. Since then my viral load has went from 3200 to 5500 to 39000 with my tcells going from 636 to 722. I heard that you lose about 50 tcells a year. Is this true if your viral load keeps going up? How concerned should I be with my viral load increase described above? My doctor says that we will recheck in 2 months and then decide if treatment should start.

Answer

Hi-

It is unusual for the viral load to change dramatically in people with established HIV infection. Reasons for an increase in viral load in persons not on HIV medications could include lab error (it happens), vaccination (flu shot, pneumonia shot, hepatitis shot etc) shortly before the test was done, a concurrent illness and maybe although not well defined - infection with another strain of HIV.

I would be reluctant to put you on HIV therapy if you have no major symptoms of HIV disease and your CD4 cell counts remain above 300 or so. Have your viral load rechecked. Chances are it will be lower or the same. DW