Positive Vibes


People living with HIV need to stay in care with their healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider may be an HIV clinician, nurse practitioner or a physician assistant.

Current guidelines recommend that people living with HIV see their healthcare provider for lab tests (viral load and CD4 count) every 3 to 4 months. Some people may see their provider more frequently, especially if their HIV viral load is not suppressed.

Viral load test

Your viral load gives you an idea of how much of the HIV virus is in your body. The test measures the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood. Your test results help your healthcare provider follow what’s happening with your infection and how well your treatment is working. Keeping your viral load low will keep your immune system healthy, make complications of HIV less likely and help you live longer.

What do the results mean?

A high viral load is generally considered about 100,000 copies, but you could have 1 million or more. The virus is at work making copies of itself, and the disease may progress quickly.

A lower HIV viral load is below 10,000 copies. The virus is not actively reproducing as fast, and damage to your immune system may be slowed.

CD4 count test

The CD4 count is a test that measures how many CD4 cells you have in your blood. These are a type of white blood cell, called T-cells, that move throughout your body to find and destroy bacteria, viruses, and other invading germs. Your test results help your healthcare provider know how much damage has been done to your immune system and what’s likely to happen next if treatment is not initiated. The CD4 count should increase in response to treatment. Keeping your CD4 count up with treatment can hold off symptoms and complications of HIV and help you live longer.

What do the results mean?

A normal CD4 count is from 500 to 1400 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. CD4 counts decrease over time in persons who are not receiving treatment.  At levels below 200 cells per cubic millimeter, patients become susceptible to a wide variety of serious infections and diseases, many of which can be fatal.