Top of the page
Soon after you are diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), you will have other blood tests. These tests help your doctor see how your body is responding to the virus. They also help show how well your treatment is working.
These tests may be done every couple of weeks to every few months. The first set of tests serves as a baseline. Your doctor can compare the results of future tests with the first set. Your doctor will look at the results of several tests over time to see if the infection is getting better with treatment and that the medicines aren't causing any problems.
These tests include the viral load test, a CD4+count, and the HIV drug resistance test. You may also have tests for other infections and to check your health status.
A viral load test measures how much HIV is in your blood. It measures the amount of the genetic material (RNA) of the virus.
This test is done to:
Viral load results are reported as the number of HIV copies in a millilitre (copies/mL) of blood. Each virus is called a "copy" because HIV increases by making copies of itself.
With good treatment, the viral load should go down. Within a few months of treatment, the virus should become undetectable. This means that there is very little virus in your blood.
HIV destroys CD4+ cells. CD4+ cells are a type of white blood cell. White blood cells are important in fighting infections.
A CD4+ count is a blood test to find the number of CD4+ cells. This number shows if your HIV has progressed to AIDS. It also helps find out if other infections may occur. These other infections are often called opportunistic infections. They occur in people with weak immune systems. They usually don't occur in people with healthy immune systems.
CD4+ counts are done to:
Results are reported as the total number of CD4+ cells per microlitre (mcL) of blood. You may also see a percent number. That number is the percentage of white blood cells that are CD4+ cells. The total and the percent numbers go up and down together.
The pattern of CD4+ counts over time is more important than any single count. As the count rises, the healthier your immune system is. As the count drops, it becomes more likely that AIDS will develop.
The ranges listed here are just a guide. The ranges vary from lab to lab. Your lab may use a different range.
A CD4+ count range of:
Your doctor will talk with you about the results of these tests and what they mean. The doctor will answer any questions you have. The doctor may also:
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter X538 in the search box to learn more about "Learning About Post-Diagnosis HIV Tests".
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine & Peter Shalit MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
©2006-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.