Q and A


How long have I been living with HIV?


I have been diagnosed 1 year ago with a low CD4 count of 120 and a low viral load of ~13000. My first doctor who had give me treatment said that my low CD4 count indicate an infection more than 6 years ago. But he couldn’t explain to me why my viral load was so “low” after all these years.. Maybe you could?

The only time I got a suspicion about my infection was 1 year and 3 months before my diagnosis but my doctor told me it wasn’t likely that my CD4 has fall so quickly in this short period of time.

And, additionally, I would like to know if it’s normal for my CD4 to have jump from 120 to 380 in only 2 months and only went from 380 to 405 in the 10 following months.

Best regards


Hi, how are you doing?

If your doctor is right and you have been living with HIV for more than 6 years, your viral load is what would normally be expected. It is shown on this graph.

There is an initial spike in viral load soon after infection after which HIV settles and drops. This all happens in the first few months. After this HIV can then slowly increase over time and having a viral load ~13000 would be considered normal if not on treatment.

It is likely you have bene living with HIV longer than when you initially thought. It is possible for CD4 count to drop quickly within a year but this is not a common occurrence. In most cases it suggests you have been HIV positive for longer though it is impossible to provide exact times. Instead estimates are made. In theory it could be anywhere between 2 and 10 years. Unfortunately it is impossible to say exactly when.

Recovery of CD4 count is slow. Your very quick recovery either suggests there was an initial lab error and your CD4 count was higher than 120, or the second test was incorrect. Though as the third result you had increased at an expected result, it is probable there was an error with the first. This being said, in rare cases CD4 count recovery can be quick. It is still important to regularly monitor this.

CD4 count recovery usually takes time because it requires the body to naturally recover. HIV treatment does not stimulate or increase the rate of recovery. HIV treatment only suppresses HIV which prevents it damaging more CD4 cells.



  1. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Lindiwe, nevirapine is usually given for 4 to 6 weeks after birth. It is great that baby has already tested negative but there is still some risk of being positive. This is why nevirapine is still given. It helps to prevent any risk of HIV transmission for the following weeks after birth. Even if baby is not breastfeeding, it is still important to give baby nevirapine.

  2. Lindiwe

    Hi there, I just gave birth 2 weeks ago and they did an hiv test on baby which was negative. Why does he still need to be on Nevirapine in this case? I am in Soutn Africa

  3. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Awer, no there are no problems with drinking alcohol when on HIV medication. Any issue associated with alcohol will be the same regardless of someones HIV status. The only risk is alcohol causing problems forgetting to take treatment but if that is not a problem there will be no further issues.

  4. Awer

    Is there side effect to use alcoh when am in hiv medication


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