Q and A

Question

How can I increase my CD4 count without ARVs?

I have just found out that I was HIV positive in March, last year. My CD4 count was 270.

I did another test and it was 284 and my doctor said I must start treatment.

I just want to know what I must do to increase my CD4 count without taking treatment.

Answer

Hi, how are you doing?

The only way to increase your CD4 is to use HIV treatment (ART).

Your doctor is giving you good information and advice.

Nothing else, including multivitamins, supplements or herbal remedies can increase your CD4 count. Looking after yourself is important – for example, eating a balanced diet, keeping physically and mentally active, reducing stress, sleeping well etc.  But increasing your CD4 count is only proven by using effective HIV meds.

Even though some companies advertise this vitamins and supplements can help your CD4 count, these are scams. There is no such thing as an “immune booster” and no “immune booster” will help your CD4 count or help control HIV.

Why do you want to delay ART or look at other options? HIV meds are really effective – this is what they were designed for.

ART stops HIV from replicating.  The main aim is to reduce your viral load to an undetectable level (less than 50 copies/mL). As your viral load goes down, your immune system start to repair itself.  This means that your CD4 count will slowly go up to higher levels again.

Currently South Africa recommendation starting treatment when the CD4 count is below 500 cells/mm3. This may change in the future and treatment might be recommended at any CD4 count. (Note: South African later changed to recommends treatment at any CD4 count).

Here is a link to more information about starting treatment.  Please take your time reading it and if you have any further questions do write back to me.

Are you receiving any support from other people? Getting support from your local support group or a counsellor can help you to come to terms living with HIV. Also you will be able to gain and share experiences with others who are in the similar situation as you, rather than having to deal with it in isolation.

This answer was updated in January 2019 and January 2016 from a question first posted on 2 March 2012.

762 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Mavis,

    Are you losing lot of weight? If so you can talk to the doctor about it and ask for advice about diet.

    But how’s your treatment going? What HIV meds are you taking, and do you have access to your viral load and CD4 results? Please let us know.

    Here’s the i-Base guide to a balanced diet and your health. There are lots of tips in the guide about getting the right balance between carbs, protein, fat, fibre, vitamins, minerals and water. This could help keep your weight up.

  2. Mavis

    Why am I still growing lean as I’m taking ART ?

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