How do you know what’s happening to your body?
Even when you are feeling well, it is recommended that you keep a check on your immune system. The two tests that are most useful for finding out how your immune system is coping with HIV are CD4 counts and viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma. tests.
These two tests are the most important tests in terms of ongoing health monitoring. They may be used as a guide so you can understand:
- how much HIV is in your body at any time;
- how this is affecting your immune system;
- whether you are at risk of opportunistic infection;
- whether you should start treatment; and
- whether your current treatments are working.
These tests will also have a role in terms of other decisions, for example, if you are considering pregnancy.
How are you feeling?
When you had your HIV test, you should have had counselling before the test and when you received the test results. If you were not given any counselling, feel the counselling was inadequate, or need ongoing counselling, ask your AIDS council or positive women’s group to suggest someone you could talk to.
How you are feeling at any given moment may be related to your HIV status, or to your general sense of physical and emotional well-being. If you are feeling unwell, it could be directly related to HIV or some other illness, or it may be that emotional or psychological stresses are playing a major role.
This section looks at the various ways in which HIV can be monitored and managed. Monitoring your HIV may involve a series of steps including regular general check-ups, and tests which can look at how much HIV is in your body at any time, and how this is affecting your health and immune system.
Some people living with HIV have experienced very little illness, while others have had periods of illness and have spent time in hospital. Each person living with HIV is unique and no-one can know exactly how the virusA small infective organism which is incapable of reproducing outside a host cell. will affect him or her.
In the past, most research about the effects of HIV did not look at the specific ways in which HIV and HIV treatments affect women’s bodies. This is now being addressed, and more women are now taking part in research. Talk to your health practitioner about getting specific information about the effects of different HIV treatments on women.
There are HIV treatment officers attached to most AIDS councils or PLWHAPerson (or People) Living with HIV/AIDS. organisations in each state and territory. They can provide you with up-to-date information and will spend time — face to face or by phone — discussing any matters that concern you.
Treat Yourself Right