While there is currently no cure for HIV, advancements in research have created treatments that help to reduce the viral load in the bloodstream. When the viral load in the bloodstream is low enough (less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of plasma), it will not be detectable on a routine HIV viral load blood test. While the patient has an undetectable HIV viral load, they still have HIV, but there is little to no risk of transmitting sexually to a partner, provided the viral load is undetectable for at least six months.
While having an undetectable viral load prevents the spread of HIV from sexual contact, it’s not known if HIV could still spread through sharing needles or drug injection equipment. According to the CDC, it will likely reduce the risk of transmission, but it’s not known by how much. Therefore, sharing needles, even with an undetectable viral load, is still considered risky.
Starting HIV treatment as soon as you’re diagnosed will help you start to reduce your viral load. The medications to treat HIV are considered antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV is a retrovirus, so ART will suppress the ability of HIV to create more copies of itself, leading to a low viral load. ART also helps the body to increase the CD4 count, a type of cell that helps your body fight infection. The CD4 count is an important measure of health for people with HIV.
Part of keeping a low viral load is the continuation of treatment. Missing doses can lead to HIV multiplying, which can weaken your immune system. You may need to plan ahead if you have a busy schedule so you can stay on track. If you experience side effects that make it difficult for you to take your medication, talk to your provider. Sometimes people may have a mental health or substance abuse issue that can cause them to forget medications or simply not be able to manage medications properly. If you have trouble taking your medication, talk to your health care provider.
HIV has gone from a fatal illness to a manageable chronic illness—however, those who are HIV positive still need to take their diagnoses seriously and do what is needed to keep an undetectable viral load. If you need help managing your HIV treatment, contact M-Care Healthcare. We want to help you stay healthy and have an undetectable viral load.