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Q. 53 On viral load tests, what is considered a high viral load and what is considered a low one? What are these tests used for?
Ans. Viral load tests measure how much of the HIV virus is in the bloodstream. They are very new tests and can be very expensive. Insurance companies may or may not cover the cost of the test. A result below 10,000 is considered a low result. A result over 100,000 is considered a high result. The primary use of these tests is to help determine how well a certain antiviral drug is working. If the viral load is high, your physician may consider switching you to another drug therapy. The viral load tests are best used if trends in results are compared over time. If the viral load increases over time, then the drug treatment may need to be changed. If the viral load goes down over time, antiviral treatment may be working for you. So rather than just taking one test, a series of viral load tests gives much more useful information. Of course, antiviral therapy must not be determined by this test alone. Other tests (like CD4 cell counts) are also important indicators as to how well antiviral therapy is working. It is presently not known what a test result between 10,000 and 100,000 means. That's why trends in viral load tests are of much greater value.