What does undetectable viral load mean

If you’re living with or are affected by HIV, you’ve probably heard the term “undetectable”. You might have also wondered what it actually means to be undetectable. Here’s more information: 

What is it? 

First, let’s talk about what a viral load is. A viral load is the copies or amount of the virus in each sample of blood. People living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load if they take their ARVs as prescribed by a healthcare provider. 

What this means is that the ARVs are fighting the virus and have decreased the levels of the virus in the body to the point that HIV tests can longer detect the virus. Also, your immune system is working well at defending itself from germs and other infections and your body is in good health.

When your viral load is undetectable, then the chances of you passing the virus to someone else is very slim. Don’t get me wrong though Choma, this doesn’t mean that you are cured and you should stop taking your treatment and using protection. If you stop taking your treatment, then your viral load can increase again and it can make HIV transmittable again. Not taking your medication can also affect your long-term health. 

What does undetectable mean to an HIV negative person? 

If you’re HIV negative and your partner is living with HIV and their viral load is undetectable and they are on their ARVs, then there’s no risk of being infected with HIV through sexual intercourse. However, even if your partner is undetectable, don’t simply stop using condoms at all times. Condoms still prevent unplanned pregnancy and other STIs. 

Sometimes, you might look and feel perfectly fine, but remember that feeling fine is not an indicator of what your viral load is. You can only know that you’re undetectable by taking your medication as prescribed by a healthcare provider and through regular viral load monitoring every 2 to 4 months in order to know that you’re undetectable. 

Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments. 

You can also contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

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