Undetectable viral load. What is it?
You have probably heard of the word undetectable viral load and probably wondering what does it mean.
Well you are not alone. Many people still have a hard time understanding what undetectable viral load mean but we are going to simplify things for you.
What is undetectable viral load?
Undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in your body is reduced to small quantities that it can no longer be detected by a standard blood test.
People with undetectable viral loads can’t pass HIV on through sex but this doesn’t mean you stop practicing safe sex. Use a condom always during sex to avoid reinfection, other stis and unwanted pregnancy.
Undetectable viral load is usually achieved by taking your HIV treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
An undetectable viral load means your treatment is working well in controlling HIV in your body.
Being undetectable does not mean you are cured. You need to continue taking your medication everyday as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
If you stop taking your treatment as prescribed, your viral load will increase, affecting your health and making HIV transmittable again.
How will I know if I am undetectable?
You can’t tell if you have an undetectable viral load simply by how healthy you look and feel.
The only sure way to know that your viral load is undetectable is by having regular viral load monitoring.
Do I still need to use condoms if I’m undetectable?
Yes, you still need to use condoms when you are undetectable to prevent you from reinfection, other stis and unwanted pregnancy.
Also if you and your partner decide to stop using condoms, it is important that the both of you talk to your healthcare provider first.
If your partner is also living with HIV, it is important that the both of you are undetectable to avoid reinfection. It is recommended you test for your viral load together and talk to your healthcare provider first before you have sex.
Can my viral load continue to change?
Yes, your viral load can continue to change based on the following factors
- Not adhering to HIV treatment
- Other health conditions such as chronic diseases like diabetes hypertension which may cause drug interactions making HIV treatment less effective
- Having other sexually transmitted infections
- Having opportunistic infections such as TB
- Treatment side effects
Regular viral load monitoring and checkups will not only help you identify, respond and stay on top of these changes but also help you can manage your health accordingly.
Also while viral load change might occur, it is very uncommon for people who adhere to their treatment as prescribed by their healthcare provider.
Can everyone living with HIV achieve an undetectable viral load?
Not everyone living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load.
Some achieve undetectable viral load while other don’t.
It is important to stick to your treatment as prescribed by your healthcare provider and keep your regular health appointments with your doctor.
While you may not be undetectable, you can still remain healthy and your healthcare workers will still work with you to help you have the best treatment outcomes possible.
Does being undetectable mean you can’t pass HIV on through pregnancy, breastfeeding or sharing injecting equipment?
There is no evidence at the moment to prove that you cannot pass HIV through pregnancy, breastfeeding or sharing injecting equipment if you are undetectable.
But the good news is So long as they adhere to their medication, and follow your doctor’s advice, the risk of HIV transmission will be very low.