Q and A


Will my brother be okay with a CD4 count of 20?

Hi, my brother was recently diagnosed with HIV and the CD4 is 20 and viral load 800 000. I’m worried because he developed shingles and it looks bad. He use to drink alcohol every day and he’s stated taking treatment 3 days ago, and he hasn’t been drinking recently. Should I be worried or he’s going to be OK?


Hi, how are you doing?

It is great that your brother has started treatment. Has he also been given any antibiotics? Usually co-trimoxazole is given while the CD4 count is below 200 to prevent other infections.

Is your brother being treated for shingles? As he is now on HIV treatment, his CD4 count and viral load should both start to improve. Viral load can be suppressed very quickly, often being undetectable within a month. Recovery of CD4 count is a longer process but starting on treatment mean it will start to improve.

Many people find out their HIV status with very low CD4 counts. Even when starting in single digits, treatment allows your CD4 count to recover. This means your brothers immune system will recover. It is great that he has stopped drinking. For the treatment to be effective he needs to take it every day. Alcohol does not directly interact with HIV treatment, but it can cause people to forget to take their treatment. This can risk resistance and medication not working.

Your brother being on treatment and not drinking, means he is doing everything right to make sure the treatment works. This is the best way for HIV to be treated and means your brother is very likely to be okay.



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