CD4 and Viral Load
Your health indicators
CD4 Count is a measure which gives an indication of the strength of your immune system. CD4 cells are an extremely important part of our immune system and HIV attacks these cells reducing the number of them in the body. Tests measure the number of CD4 cells in your blood and this indicates how healthy your immune system is. The higher the CD4 count, the healthier the immune system is.
Viral Load is a measure which indicates the levels of HIV in the body. Tests measure the amount of virus in the blood and the lower the viral load, the less HIV there is in your system and the less damage it can cause. The aim of putting people on treatment is to get the viral load to undetectable levels. This means that the amount of HIV in the system is at such low levels that ill-health is unlikely due to the HIV and the risk of passing on HIV is close to zero. Viral loads will vary between individuals, but most people will achieve an undetectable viral load soon after treatment has started.
If someone is not yet on treatment, CD4 count and viral load will be factors that determine when the doctors think it is appropriate to start doing treatment. However, current UK guidelines state that anyone living with HIV can start treatment when they feel that the time is right. Talk to your HIV consultant about the right time for you to start medication.