Understanding test results
Your HIV health is monitored by results from blood tests.
This is mainly the CD4 count and viral load. But it also includes CD4% (if there is an unexpected result) and CD4:CD8 ratio (when the CD4 count is above 500).
ART is also routinely monitored by other blood tests. These include ALT/AST (for liver function), eGFR (for kidney function), cholesterol and triglycerides (for heart disease) and glucose levels (for diabetes).
Other monitoring includes your height and weight (combined for BMI), heart rate, blood pressure, and asking about your mood, memory, sex life and general happiness.
Understanding results – especially from blood tests – will help people understand their health.
Several principles are useful for understanding all test results.
Your doctor should be able to give you a print out of your results.
- Lab results should come with a “normal” range. Anywhere within this range is good. Anything outside should mean the result needs to be checked.
- Most tests have a range of accuracy and variability. Interpreting results should allow for this fluctation. For example, both CD4 count and viral load can be 30% higher or lower and still be within the range for the test.
- Find out how often each test should be run and the time for checking an unexpected result.
- Keeping a record of results can make it easier to see if there is a pattern over time. For example, if kidney function or cholesterol are steadily improving or getting worse.
- Never make a change in treatment based on one result. Always have this confirmed with a second test. As well as fluctuation with results, sometimes other lab errors can occur, including mixing up samples.
i-Base treatment passport
i-Base produce a booklet – also online – for recording a summary record of your medical notes, including test results.
Last updated: 1 April 2022.