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Viral Load

Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who is HIV-positive. A viral load test tells how much HIV is in the blood. If you have HIV, you should get your viral load checked at least twice a year or more often as recommended by your health care provider.

The goal of HIV treatment is to reduce viral load to very low or undetectable levels. When the viral load is very low, it is called viral suppression. Undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that it can't be measured. Being virally suppressed or having an undetectable viral load is good for an HIV-positive person's overall health. + It also greatly reduces the chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual or drug-using partner who does not have HIV. However, this is only true if a person can get and stay virally suppressed. One thing that can increase viral load is not taking HIV medicines the right way, every day.

Having an undetectable viral load depends in part on what test is used to measure viral load, because some tests are more sensitive than others. But in general, an undetectable viral load would mean someone has less than about 40 copies per milliliter of blood. Someone who has less than about 200 copies per milliliter of blood is virally suppressed.

In general, the higher someone's viral load, the more likely that person is to transmit HIV. Someone with acute HIV infection has a very high viral load. People who have HIV but are in care, taking HIV medicines, and are virally suppressed are much less likely to transmit HIV than people who have HIV and do not have a low viral load.