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HIV Viral Load - What Is It And Why Is It Important?

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Updated October 11, 2007

Question: HIV Viral Load - What Is It And Why Is It Important?
HIV viral load is an important measurement of the amount of active HIV is the blood of someone who is HIV positive. The HIV viral load is used as a measurement of how active your HIV disease is and also indicates if your medication regimen is working. Let's look a little closer at HIV viral load.

What is HIV Viral Load?

Answer:
Viral load is a blood test that measures the amount of active HIV in your blood. The higher the value of the viral load test the more active HIV is present.

The Goal of Treatment

The goal of HIV treatment is to suppress HIV replication (reproduction) in order to bring the HIV viral load measurement as low as possible. People with higher viral loads have a greater risk for immune system damage that in turns leaves the body at risk for opportunistic infections.

Opportunistic Infections Common to HIV+ People

What Do The Test Results Mean

Typically, your doctor will draw blood about once every three months to measure the amount of active HIV. The test results can vary depending on the viral load test being used.

Quantitative HIV Viral Load

    The results vary from less than 400 copies to greater than 750,000 copies.

Ultrasensitive Viral Load

    The results vary from less than 50 copies to greater than 75,000 copies.

Interpreting Viral Load Results

Interpreting and Using the Results

Simply put, the fewer HIV copies you have the better. Unfortunately, current therapies can not completely remove HIV from the body. But the goal is to decrease HIV numbers below the detectable range (less than 50 copies). At that point you are said to have an undetectable viral load. Your doctor will use your viral load results to help decide when therapy should be started and what types of medications are best for you.

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