Why it is important to have your viral load checked


© While we have shared a lot of information on HIV, it is important to note that Zimbabwe has 1,3 million people living with HIV. It is important to start on and adhere to anti-retroviral treatment if you are HIV positive.

Source: Why it is important to have your viral load checked – DailyNews Live

National AIDS Council      28 April 2019

After six months of being on treatment, you need to start having your
viral load checked.
“Viral load” refers to the amount of virus in the blood.
It is measured by a simple blood test which also shows how well
anti-retroviral treatment is working at protecting your immune system from
other potential illnesses.

An “undetectable” diagnosis means that the level of HIV in your body is so
low (under 40 copies/ml) that it is non-infectious to other people.

You might also hear healthcare workers talking about “viral suppression”
(where HIV levels are under 200 copies/ml) – if you have had either of
these diagnoses then there is zero risk of you passing on HIV.

It usually takes the body a while to adjust to new medicines, and the same
goes for HIV treatment.
Simply being on treatment does not automatically mean that you are
undetectable and it is very common for viral loads to fluctuate,
particularly early on after starting a new treatment regime.

You might look and feel perfectly healthy, but simply feeling fine is not
a good indicator of what your viral load looks like.
The only way to know that you are undetectable is through regular viral
load monitoring.

It is recommended that you should be taking treatment for at least six
months, and then have your viral load is monitored every two to four
months by a healthcare professional to know that you are undetectable.

It is important to remember that, even if you have an undetectable viral
load, HIV is still present in your body.
This means that if you stop taking treatment then your viral load can
increase – affecting your long-term health and making HIV transmittable
Can everyone living with HIV achieve an undetectable viral load?
Not everyone living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load and
this is usually down to factors out of someone’s control.
For some people, it might be tricky to find a treatment regime that agrees
with them.

While in some places, viral load testing may not always be readily
If this is the case for you, it is essential that you still take your
medication exactly as prescribed and that you keep regular appointments
with your doctor. While you may not be `undetectable’, you can still
remain healthy.

If you are not sure about your viral load status then there are still
other ways to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among your sexual

Your partners may want to consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
to keep themselves HIV-negative. Using condoms will prevent both HIV
transmission and other sexually transmitted infections.

If you are not able to get your viral load monitored regularly, it is
important not to assume that you are undetectable.
If you are able to remain undetectable under the correct treatment and
monitoring pattern, the great news is that you do not have to worry about
passing HIV onto your sexual partner!
Being undetectable also means that your body is in good health and that
your immune system is working well at defending itself from daily germs.

Maintaining your treatment and monitoring routine is key to remaining
undetectable, but is also a good way to ensure that you stay healthy.

If  you are HIV negative and your partner is undetectable, condoms are
still the only form of protection that also prevent other STIs and
unwanted pregnancies. You may also want to look into PrEP as an extra
precaution against HIV.

Whatever decision you make about protection, it is still best to regularly
test for HIV to check that your status remains negative.