The viral load is a term used to describe the amount of virus in the blood of a person with HIV. As HIV regenerates itself in the body, it takes over helper white blood cells, often called t-cells or CD4 cells, which fight infection. HIV is constantly multiplying in the body, destroying CD4 cells in the process. A higher viral load means there is more HIV in the body and fewer white blood CD4 cells to fight infection. Often, doctors will talk about the “CD4 count” and “viral load” as a way of monitoring whether or not medical treatment is working, or just to assess the status of a patient’s health. A low viral load can get to levels called “undetectable.” An undetectable viral load does not mean the HIV is cured, or that there is no HIV in the body. It means that the amount is so low, that it cannot be measured with standard lab test. Having an undetectable viral load greatly lowers the risk of transmission, and greatly improves the health of the person living with HIV.
- A LOW viral load and HIGH CD4 count is good news.
- Generally, the viral load is considered undetectable when it is below 40 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
- A CD4 count of fewer than 200 cells/mm3 is one of the qualifications for a diagnosis of stage 3 infection (AIDS).