17th March 2014
That time has come again, a return to the clinic for blood tests. My last blood results showed a slight increase in my CD4, and a viral load drop to undetectable levels.
As the months have passed since my diagnosis, my strong dislike of needles has faded (that’s putting it mildly, I once persuaded my dentist to drill and fill a tooth without anaesthetic because I hated the thought of an injection so much). This time I was actually curious, though I couldn’t bring myself to watch the needle going in, I did watch as the five vials of blood were taken.
I’ll need to get used to these blood tests, as I’ll likely be having them for the rest of my life unless a cure is found. As time goes on the frequency of the tests will decrease if results are good. The reason for the tests is to make sure the meds are working, if they are working then my HIV viral load should be ‘undetectable’ (less than 50 copies per ml), and my CD4 cell count should over time rise back to an effective level of 600+.
The other purpose of the tests is to make sure the meds themselves aren’t causing too much damage. The daily combination of antiretroviral drugs which so effectively fight HIV, can also put a strain on the body, so some of the blood taken will be used to test things like kidney function.
7th April 2014
I returned to the clinic this afternoon to get my results and discuss any concerns with the doctor. I’d actually been a little worried, as I’d not been feeling well lately and have had some discomfort in my stomach after eating meals. Since food is an important part of the absorption process for my meds, I had some concern that perhaps I might not be getting an effective dose.
Thankfully that worry was unfounded, my meds are still working, and the HIV virus in my bloodstream is being suppressed, so like my previous results three months earlier, viral load was ‘undetectable’.
This time there was no rise in my CD4 count – actually it dropped slightly. The CD4 count drop was disappointing news, but factoring in the margin for error in CD4 count tests, my CD4 count has remained fairly steady since diagnosis – so it’s not improving, but not getting significantly worse either.
Perhaps it may take some years for my immune system to rebuild, I feel extremely lucky to have those years ahead of me, even if it may be a bumpy road back to full health.