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What Does HIV Viral Load Tell You?

hiv viral load

HIV viral load is a measure of the amount of the HIV virus present in the blood. Your viral load can help determine the severity of your HIV infection and the likelihood of developing AIDS. Sometimes, your viral load can also indicate the effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy.

What Does It Tell You?

Viral load is the amount of HIV in your bodily fluids, such as blood and semen. The higher the viral load, the more active the virus is and the greater the risk of transmission of the virus.

A high viral load indicates that your medication is not working better and the infection is more active. The likelihood of complications and illnesses linked to a compromised immune system increases with a higher viral load. It might also indicate that you have a higher chance of contracting AIDS.

A viral load below 100 copies/ml can get you an “undetectable” status, while a viral load above 400 copies/ml increases your risk of AIDS. An undetectable HIV status prevents HIV disease from progressing and allows people to live longer. It also lowers the risk of transmission from an HIV-positive individual to a healthy person.

Viral Load Test

Laboratory test that detects the amount of HIV in a person’s blood. HIV is a virus that can damage the immune system, and a high viral load may be an indicator of HIV infection.

A viral load test can help determine whether treatment is needed and whether the person is progressing well on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Test for HIV viral load checks for RNA, the component of HIV that contains the instructions for self-replication of the virus..

Compared to earlier HIV testing, RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction) tests are far more sensitive in detecting HIV. They can discover as few as 20 HIV RNA copies in a milliliter of blood.

Here are the results you can get from a viral load test and what your viral load range mean:

A high contains 100,000 up to a million HIV RNA. It means that your viral rate is growing fast, which can quickly escalate to developing AIDS.

A lower is below 10,000 copies. It means that the virus is not actively producing copies of itself as fast and can cause slow damage to the immune system.

An undetectable HIV viral load is less than 20 copies. It is the goal of HIV treatment. However, this does not mean that you are cured.

Get a viral load test as soon as you receive a positive HIV diagnosis. It provides your doctor with a “baseline measurement” to compare your future test results and track how well your treatment will be going.

How Fast Does Your Viral Load Increase Without Meds?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as viral loads can vary significantly from person to person without any medication. However, according to the National Institutes of Health, a viral load increase of more than 100 copies per milliliter (copies per milliliters is a standard measure used to describe the amount of virus present in a sample) is generally considered to be a sign that HIV drugs treatment is necessary.

A person’s viral load can increase rapidly without medications and can grow more than ten times  if they have only a few hundred copies of HIV in their blood. Similarly,  it can increase more than a million times if they have millions of copies of untreated HIV in their blood.

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