Viral Load Measurement
How It Feels
You may feel nothing at all from the
needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes
through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the
vein. But many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort)
after the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends
on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of
your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.
There is very little risk of complications from
having blood drawn from a vein.
- You may develop a small bruise at the puncture
site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for
several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.
- In rare cases, the
vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is
called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several
- Continued bleeding can be a problem for people with
bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning
medicines can also make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting
problems, or if you take blood-thinning medicine, tell your health professional
before your blood is drawn.
A viral load test measures how much
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is in the blood.
The results can take up to 2 weeks.
The normal values listed here—called a reference range—are just a guide. These ranges vary from lab to lab and depend upon which testing method is used (RT-PCR, bDNA, NASBA). Your lab may have a different range for what's normal. Your lab report should contain the range your lab uses. Also, your doctor will evaluate your results based on your health and other factors. This means that a value that falls outside the normal values listed here may still be normal for you or your lab.
load results are reported as the number of HIV copies in a
milliliter (copies/mL) of blood. Each virus is called
a "copy," because HIV reproduces by making copies of itself
HIV is not detected in the
HIV is detected in the blood.
Your doctor will compare your current measurement with previous
If your viral load increases, it means the infection is
getting worse. If the viral load drops, it means that the infection is being
What Affects the Test
Reasons you may not be able to
have the test or why the results may not be helpful include: