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. Looking after yourself is important – for example, eating a balanced diet, keeping physically and mentally active, reducing stress, sleeping well etc.  But increasing your CD4 count is only proven by using effective HIV meds.

Even though some companies advertise this vitamins and supplements can help your CD4 count, these are scams. There is no such thing as an “immune booster” and no “immune booster” will help your CD4 count or help control 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 2019 and January 2016 from a question first posted on 2 March 2012.

1,012 comments

  1. Josh Peasegood

    Hi Asa, I am sorry to hear that you husband is going through so much, as you with him. Do you both have any support? From a standpoint of HIV, taking ARVs is the best thing that he can do to boost his immune system. It will suppress HIV to allow his body to naturally recover his CD4 cells. Is he taking any medication to protect against other infections? Usually this is called co-trimoxazole a.k.a. Septrin or Bactrim.

    In terms of food he only needs to be following a balanced diet. Have you had any input from a dietician? Sometimes restrictions of certain foods are required depending on his treatment for diabetes and cancer. This is a link to healthy eating: https://i-base.info/guides/side/diet-a-balanced-diet-and-your-health Aside from this there are not ‘super foods’ that can help boost his immune system. Ensuing a balanced diet alongside his medication will allow his immunity to recover naturally.

  2. Asa

    Hallow
    Please help my husband was diagnose april 2022 that he is HIV+ with a low cd4 count, he started arvs inmediately,in september he was diagnose that he is Diabetic, in November got admitted bcz of a pain at his back then diagnose diagnose that he has cancer lymphoma stage 4 with bone marrow. So he waz hospitalised for a month and has started chemo and yesterday he was discharged but u can see that he is weak and lost a lot of weight. At the same i can see that at least he got sick while already on ARVS because he is not looking very bad even though u can see that he is sick i think he was gona be worse if he was not on ARVs.
    My question is what food can I give him to boost his immune, food to eat. Like someone advised me to give him a meal meal porridge with a mayonaise or peanut butter, so what else can I give him to boost him. Becaise he doea not have a problem with appetite but he gets constipated a lot. For ARVs he is also taking xeroprim, prydoxine, isoniozid and reydin

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