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Viral load testing

What is HIV-1 viral load?

HIV-1 viral load refers to the number of viral particles found in each millilitre. The more HIV-1 viral particles in the blood, the faster the CD4+ T-cells are likely destroyed and the faster the progress toward AIDS.

How are CD4+ T-cell counts and HIV viral load used?

CD4+ T-cell counts are used, together with the Viral Load test, to get a complete picture about how the immune system is fighting the virus. As HIV reproduces within the body, the viral load increases and HIV destroys the CD4+ T-cells and thus lowers the amount of cells present. Generally, the higher the HIV viral load, the more CD4+ T-cells are being destroyed. The goals are to keep CD4+ T-cell count high and viral load low.

  • The number of CD4+ T-cells and virus levels will guide a patient and their doctor in deciding when to start anti-viral treatment.
  • Monitoring CD4+ T-cell counts and viral loads during treatment helps the doctor assess how well the patient responds to their prescribed treatment.

How is Viral Load measured?

The viral load test should consistently detect and measure virus levels down to 50 copies/mL, have a high specificity and provide reproducible results. The technologies used are advanced and very sensitive for measuring the amount of HIV genetic material present in the blood.

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CMLF News Issue #7
27th January 2016