The presence of the HIV virus in the human body does, in fact, have varying degrees. Simply testing HIV-positive isn’t enough; we have to determine what the viral load is and address it accordingly. Viral control relies on knowing the current viral load and how to adjust treatment. At UNM Truman, our goal is to help patients achieve an undetectable viral load and healthy immune system. It helps if they know exactly what that means.
Viral Load: What Is It?
One of the most important numbers for an HIV-positive individual to know is their viral load. This is literally the measurement of virus particles in their bloodstream. The more virus present in a patient’s blood, the higher the viral load count becomes. With a consistently high viral load count, a patient stands a greater risk of their CD4 cell count—one type of cell that protects the body from infection—dropping.
The higher a viral load count, the greater chance the patient has of falling ill.
Controlling the Viral Load
This is where HIV treatments—drugs such as antiretroviral therapy and inhibitors—can help patients to reach an undetectable viral load. After being diagnosed, patients usually have a viral load measurement with an additional one three to six months later. This is to discover the “average” viral load in a patient’s system.
HIV treatment is designed to control the viral load and reduce it to the undetectable stage. Care has to be taken in case a patient’s HIV becomes resistant to the medications they’ve been prescribed. This is one reason that doctors make viral load testing part of an HIV-positive patient’s yearly medical routine. Knowing what the viral load numbers are allows the patient and doctor to discuss options and find the best possible treatment.
Effective virus control is reflected in the reduction of viral load to undetectable levels. When the virus continues to remain in such small amounts, not only is the patient less likely to develop symptoms of AIDS, they’re less likely to infect others as well. Knowing the numbers, managing the viral load and taking precautions are only some of the services that UNM Truman offers. Get tested today for your own peace of mind!