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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.

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Understanding HIV/AIDS -- the Basics

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) isn't a disease in itself; rather, AIDS is a condition that develops when a person's body has been weakened by HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus). HIV is found in blood and sexual fluids and spreads mainly through unprotected sexual contact and the sharing of hypodermic needles and equipment. When a person becomes infected with HIV, it damages his or her immune system, leading to immunodeficiency; the immune system can no longer fight off common germs...

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    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: /2, 14 1
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