HIV viral load tests are reported as the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood.
If the viral load measurement is high, it generally indicates that HIV is present and replicating. Initial, untreated, and uncontrolled HIV viral loads can range as high as one million or more copies/mL.
In someone who is receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART), a high viral load means that the treatment is not effective. People who do not respond to treatment will likely have their therapy changed. They should undergo HIV drug resistance testing to help in the selection of an alternative therapy.
Viral loads that are consistently less than 200 copies/mL indicate that the virus is adequately suppressed and that the risk of disease progression is low. Nevertheless, an undetectable viral load in someone who has a diagnosed HIV infection does not mean that the person is cured; it means only that the level of HIV RNA is currently below the threshold needed for detection by the test.
Changes in viral load can often be more important during HIV monitoring than a single test result. An increasing viral load indicates either that the infection is getting worse or that the virus has developed resistance to the drugs that are being used for therapy and are no longer effective. A decreasing viral load indicates improvement, treatment effectiveness, and suppression of the HIV infection.
There's no vaccine to prevent HIV infection. Get tested for HIV to learn your status and your partner's. Get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). If you have one, get treated, because having an STD increases the risk of HIV. Learn the correct way to use condoms, and use them every time you have sex, whether it's vaginal, anal, or oral. Keep in mind that pre-seminal fluids can contain the virus. Limit your sexual partners. Have only one sexual partner who only has sex with you. If you have HIV, lower the risk of transmitting it to your sexual partner by taking your medicines as directed. Although this will lower your viral load, you still need to use condoms.
The main treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART), a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing. This helps protect your CD4 cells, keeping your immune system strong enough to fight off disease.
ART helps keep HIV from progressing to AIDS. It also helps reduce the risk of transmission.
There are more than 25 medications in six drug classes approved to treat HIV. The U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends a starting regimen of three HIV medicines from at least two drug classes.
Specificity: HIV-1 group M subtypes (clades) A through H4
Aliases: human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) viral load
Values obtained from different methods (eg, bDNA, PCR) are not interchangeable, owing to variations in reagent specificity and other methodological differences. Use only one method when monitoring patients. If the methodology is changed, re-baselining is highly recommended prior to making clinical decisions.