G’day Lads and Lasses,
Yesterday I went to my local HIV Clinic at the lovely Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. I popped in to get the results from my routine blood-work I had done last week.
My consultant gave me my latest figures: My CD4 is up from 534 to 627 (yay) and my Viral Load remains undetectable (double yay).
Now for those of you who aren’t au fait with the terminology here are some a couple of quick explanations from aidsmap.com:
- T-cells (or T-lymphocytes) are white blood cells that play important roles in the immune system. There are two main types of T-cells. One type has molecules called CD4 on its surface; these ‘helper’ cells organise the immune system’s response to bacteria, fungi and viruses. The other T-cells, which have a molecule called CD8, destroy cells that are infected and produce antiviral substances.HIV is able to attach itself to the CD4 molecule, allowing the virus to enter and infect these cells. Even while a person with HIV feels well and has no symptoms, billions of CD4 cells are infected by HIV and are destroyed each day, and billions more CD4 cells are produced to replace them. Doctors use a test that ‘counts’ the number of CD4 cells in a cubic millimetre of blood. A normal CD4 count in a healthy, HIV-negative adult can vary but is usually between 600 and 1200 CD4 cells/mm3 (though it may be lower in some people).
- Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of HIV in your blood. The more HIV there is in your blood (and therefore the higher your viral load), then the faster your CD4 cell count will fall, and the greater your risk of becoming ill because of HIV. Viral load tests measure the amount of HIV’s genetic material in a blood sample. The results of a viral load test are described as the number of copies of HIV RNA in a millilitre of blood. But your doctor will normally just talk about your viral load as a number. For example, a viral load of 10,000 would be considered low; 100,000 would be considered high.
- All viral load tests have a cut-off point below which they cannot reliably detect HIV. This is called the limit of detection. Tests used most commonly in the UK have a lower limit of detection of either 40 or 50 copies/ml, but there are some very sensitive tests that can measure below 20 copies/ml. If your viral load is below 50, it is usually said to be undetectable. The aim of HIV treatment is to reach an undetectable viral load.But just because the level of HIV is too low to be measured doesn’t mean that HIV has disappeared completely from your body. It might still be present in the blood, but in amounts too low to be measured. Viral load tests only measure levels of HIV in the blood, which may be different to the viral load in other parts of your body, for example in your genital fluids, gut or lymph nodes.
The dietician is slightly concerned about my weight however, I used to weigh between 62 and 64kg (that’s 9st 10lb – 10st in old money) and now I weigh 56Kg (8st 11lb). So they’ve put me on a new diet – where essentially they want me to be eating all day long. Lots of things rich in sugar, fat, dairy and protein. Not sure how I’m going to afford that mind!
To combat the rising number of cold-sores I’ve been getting too my consultant has put me on a daily dose of Valaciclovir to combat those at the root cause, hopefully we can get that under control too. All in all a pretty productive trip to the hospital, all done for four months now!
Until tomorrow lovely people,