D R . E L R O I


Thursday, May 29, 2008

HIV Progression and Testing Part 3

Relationship Between Health Status, Viral Load and CD4 Count

It is very important to know the CD4 count and the viral load to manage a person living with HIV and AIDS effectively. A high CD4 count and a low viral load implies that the person may be in an earlier stage of HIV infection and thus likely to remain asymptomatic and looks very healthy.

As soon as the viral load increases and the person's CD4 count decreases, he may start to experience symptoms in the form of opportunistic infections. At first it would be infrequent and mild infections such as skin infections or mouth infections, but as the viral load goes extremely high and the CD4 count drops to below 200, the person is likely to become ill with more severe opportunistic infections. Now the person has AIDS and death normally follows within 16 months to 3 years, unless the person has access to ARV or antiretroviral drug therapy.

There are two things to note at this stage. A person with a high viral load (shortly after infection and in the final stage), would also be likely to have high levels of HIV in their semen or vaginal fluid and therefore they may be more infectious. It is also important to note that if a person's CD4 count drops below 200, it does not mean they will become ill; it simply means that their chances of becoming ill are greater. Some people remain quite healthy until their CD4 count drops as low as 10-20!

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