Routine Lab Work

Routine Lab Work

In order for you and your doctor to know how best to fight your HIV infection, you will need to have blood tests on a regular basis. This will help you closely monitor yourhealth and any possible damage that HIV or other drugs you are taking might cause. In addition to common blood tests- like a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and a Chemistry Screen- you will need to have two more tests that help measure the progression of HIV disease.

T-cell count: As HIV disease progresses, the T-cell count goes from a normal count of 500 to 1500 cells in a cubic millimeter of blood (a drop, more or less) down to a count as low as zero. When the T-cell count goes below 200, there is an increased risk of opportunistic infections. When the T-cell count drops below 50, the risk rises dramatically.

Remember: A high T-cell count is good, and a low T-cell count is bad.

Viral load count: A test known as a viral load count, a viral burden count, of an HIV RNA count, measures the amount of HIV in a drop of blood. If only a small amount of virus is present (say 50 to 200 copies, depending on the test), then not all tests can detect the virus. This is what is meant when a viral load count comes back with a result of “undetectable.” It does not mean there is no virus present; it means that the amount of virus is so low that the test cannot measure it. As HIV disease progresses, the viral load count tends to rise, so that someone who starts with a very low viral load count (for example, 5,000 copies per drop) may rise to a very high viral load count (for example, several hundred thousand to almost a million copies per drop).

Remember: A low viral load count is good, and a high viral load count is bad.

Generally, your doctor will order a routine set of blood tests every three or four months. It may be more or less frequent, depending upon how far your HIV disease has progressed and what medications you are taking.