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.

Even though some companies advertise this, these are scams. There is no such thing as an “immune booster” and no “immune booster” will help your CD4 count or help with 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 2016 from a question first posted on 2 March 2012.

620 comments

  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Franca, Where do you live? It might be possible to connect you with support services locally.

  2. Franca

    Hi Roy, Yes we do need support to go to the doctor. What should we do?

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Franca,
    Many people get some side effects when they first start treatment. And these are usually mild and go away after a week or two. But can your relative talk to the doctor about the night time experiences? If the symptoms are side effects it’s a good idea to dicuss changing treatment. Do they need support to go to the doctor?

  4. Franca

    Hi. My relative just tested HIV positive last month, the Cd4 count is 170, now on meds. But every night she experience hill fever, vomiting ….generally body pain . please what should we do?

  5. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Jacob, It’s good to start ART quickly if you have a low CD4 count. But you can ask the hospital about what the septrine pills are for. Clinics usually test to see what HIV meds are best for you before you start ART. So you can ask if they will start ART after 11 days. More questions about starting ART are answered here.

  6. Jacob

    When I realize I’m HIV positive, my cd4 is only 198. I ran to a hospital. But they give me only septrine pills and say to come back at 11 days later. I feel very bad because my cd4 is very low. I think I should take ART urgently.
    Now, while I am waiting for April 23, I am taking only septrine pills.

    My question is what should I do? (I have other hospitals or centers to go without waiting that hospital)
    My cd4 is only 198, how much will it decrease in these days and how much can I increase with ART?

  7. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Philemon,

    Because you’re on meds you’re already doing the best thing possible for your HIV. In time with medication your CD4 count will rise.

  8. Philemon

    I’m on ARVs, but my CD4 count is low.

  9. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Andiswa,

    What was your CD4 count when you started meds?

  10. Andiswa

    Hi, i just started withART treatment and ive noticed sonething my eyesite is detoriating especially my right eye, what can i do to improve this, im wearing glasses but they not working, i feel like i just wasted my money by going to an Optimetrist. Please help.

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