Do Low Viral Loads Keep Up T Cells and Health?

Dear Christine,

I notice that most of the ads for AIDS treatments say that taking them will make your viral load undetectable or at least keep it low, but they donít seem to make any promises about increasing T cells or preventing AIDS.

If you keep your viral load down, does that give you high T cells or at least stabilize your counts? And whatís more important, high T cells or low viral load?

Marilyn V

Dear Marilyn,

The conventional wisdom says achieving a low viral load is desirable as this will increase or preserve T cell counts thereby allowing people who test HIV positive to protect or recover their health. Unfortunately, this simple formula does not really add up.

Since viral load tests arenít actually detecting or quantifying amounts of whole infectious virus, any numbersólow or highóarenít really telling us about actual HIV activity. While the original hypothesis asserted that HIV caused AIDS by destroying T cells, orthodox AIDS experts today have abandoned this idea and instead acknowledge that they donít know how or why HIV causes AIDS. Given these realities, itís understandable why the carefully worded statements found on AIDS drug ads do not promise that undetectable viral loads will increase or stabilize T cells or prevent HIV positives from becoming ill.

Regarding which is the more important measure, T cells or viral load, there does not seem to be any strict rule. If you ask an AIDS doctor about this I think youíll find that the most important number is which ever number is worse. When T cells are high and so is viral load, then viral load matters most, but when viral load is low and so are T cells, then itís the T cell count that will prompt a doctor to give dire warnings and drug prescriptions.

Thanks for writing,


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