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HIV Viral Load - Topic Overview

Viral load is a measurement of how much HIV is present in your blood. A sample of blood is drawn and sent to a lab for testing. Results are expressed as the number of copies of the virus per milliliter of blood. Each virus is called a "copy" because HIV reproduces by making copies of itself (replicating).

The viral load test gives a more accurate picture than a CD4+ cell count of what the virus is doing in your body at the moment. (The CD4+ test measures the effect HIV is having on your immune system.) The viral load test is used to help decide when to start treatment with medicines (antiretroviral therapy) and when to change antiretroviral medicines.

Recommended Related to HIV/AIDS

HIV and Your Diet: Countering Weight Loss

Most people with HIV don't need a special diet. But if you're feeling sick and having symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, or weight loss, you may need some changes to what and how you eat. Losing too much weight can be serious. Without good nutrition, you may get sicker. "Good nutrition is very important for people with HIV," says Brad Hare, MD, director of the HIV/AIDS clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. Without a healthy diet, your body will have a harder time recovering and fighting off i...

Read the HIV and Your Diet: Countering Weight Loss article > >

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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