My CD4 count is very low, will treatment still work?
I recently found out my CD4 count is 4. I feel fine I only started having skin problems recently. I’m starting with ARVs soon but Im afraid they will kill me as I believe my body is not strong enough. Can treatment really work when you have a CD4 count this low?
HI treatment (ART) can work at any CD4 count, even when the count has become very low.
In your case, because your CD4 count is only 4 it is very important that you start ART quickly. This is because your immune system is very weak and you are at risk of developing infections like TB or pneumonia.
ART is very effective, even with very low CD4 counts. After starting treatment your CD4 count should increase to safer levels.
More than 1 in 4 (25-50%) of people with a CD4 count below 50 cells/mm3 when they begin ART get symptoms of IRIS (Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome).
IRIS is when the immune system reacts to infections that is was previously too weak to respond to. This can cause infections like TB and CMV to flare up and need treatment. While IRIS can make things a little more complicated, it is usually easy to treat. This article from thebody.com has information on IRIS.
Although it is normal to worry about starting ART it is very important that you don’t delay. The longer you wait to start, the higher the risk of serious HIV-related illnesses.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
This answer was updated in January 2016 from a question first posted on 21 January 2013.