Reasons to change treatment

There are two main times to change treatment.

  1. If your viral load never becomes undetectable.
  2. If your viral load was undetectable but starts to rise again (viral rebound).

In both cases your treatment could have failed.

This booklet is about these two situations.

A third reason to change is if you have side effects.

It is always important to talk to your doctor about side effects. Changing treatment is usually easy. It can really improve your quality of life.

A separate guide is available if you are changing because of side effects.

Why is viral load important?

A viral load tests checks how well your treatment is working. When you are on treatment this test is often a more useful than your CD4 count.

If you are starting treatment, it can show whether the drugs are working.

If you are on treatment is shows whether treatment is still working.

How accurate are viral load tests?

In the UK, viral load tests have a cut-off of 20, 40 or 50 copies/mL. Below this level, viral load is called undetectable.

The differences between these tests are not significant.

It is common for viral load to be less than 5 copies/mL

However, viral load tests have “a three-fold margin of error”.

This means that a result of 50 could really be anywhere between 16 (3-fold lower) and 150 (3-fold higher). A result of 500 could be anywhere between 50 and 1500.

This is why it is essential to confirm an unexpected result.

Last updated: 1 January 2018.