The Molecules of HIV

Note: this site last updated in 2006

HIV tests

An article from "The Molecules of HIV" (c) Dan Stowell

To determine whether someone has HIV or not, we can use the ELISA test or the Western blot.

When monitoring the progress of infection in an infected person, we need to use tests that can give us quantitative results: numbers rather than just a yes/no answer. There are two main indicators used to measure HIV progression:

  1. HIV viral load (the number of copies of HIV RNA per cubic millimetre)
    - a high viral load is an indicator of HIV progression, or of Acute Retroviral Syndrome
  2. CD4+ cell count
    - HIV-positive individuals have a reduced CD4+ cell count

Some cheaper / less technological markers are used in developing countries such as total lymphocyte count and change in body mass, but HIV viral load and CD4+ cell count are the "gold standard". Since the tests are quite expensive it is important for scientists to develop cheap, easy-to-use tests which can be used in developing countries etc.

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Written by
Dan Stowell

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