Viral load is a measurement of how much HIV is present in your blood. A sample of blood is drawn and sent to a lab for testing. Results are expressed as the number of copies of the virus per milliliter of blood. Each virus is called a "copy" because HIV reproduces by making copies of itself (replicating).
The viral load test gives a more accurate picture than a CD4+ cell count of what the virus is doing in your body at the moment. (The CD4+ test measures the effect HIV is having on your immune system.) The viral load test is used to help decide when to change antiretroviral medicines.
Current as of: July 17, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Peter Shalit MD, PhD - Internal Medicine
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