What is Viral Load?
Viral load (also known as viral load or viral count) is a measure of the number of different types of viruses present in your blood. The higher the viral load, the greater the risk for infection with various infections such as HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B and C, TB and other bacterial diseases. A low level of virus may indicate that there are no infectious agents present in your body.
How is Viral Load Calculated?
The measurement of viral load is based on a laboratory test called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The procedure involves the use of a sample of blood from which DNA fragments have been extracted. These DNA fragments are then used to determine the amount of different types of viruses present in your blood. If there are too many or not enough viral sequences, you will get an abnormal result.
A positive result indicates that there are more than normal amounts of certain types of viruses in your blood. A negative result means that there are less than normal levels of these same types of viruses. The lower the viral load, the better the chance for good health.
What does an Elevated Viral Load Mean?
If your lab results show that you have an elevated viral load, this does not necessarily mean that you are infected with a virus. Instead, it means that one or more of the viruses are present in higher numbers than the average person. You will need to have further testing done to find out if you actually have acquired an infection.
How to Interprete Viral Load Measurements?
Your physician will compare your result with other, previously recorded test values from the same blood sample. They will also compare it to the average values of viral load present in a healthy person.
If your result is within or close to the average value, it means that you do not have an elevated amount of viruses in your blood. There are no immediate concerns and your physician can concentrate on other things.
If your result is a lot higher than average, it means that the number of viruses in your blood is very high. This usually means that you have an infection such as Herpes or another STI (such as HPV). If the test result is low, this usually means that your body has fought off the virus and you do not have an infection anymore (or that it was never there in the first place).
Your physician will tell you how long they want you to wait before taking another test in order for the results to be accurate. The amount of time can vary from a few weeks to even a few months. It all depends on the nature of the virus and your own personal medical history.
What does a Negative Viral Load Mean?
A negative result is the best possible outcome you can get from this test. It means that the amount of viruses in your blood is at an all-time low. It could also mean that you have fought off the virus completely and do not have it anymore. You will most likely not suffer from any lingering effects of the virus and are unlikely to pass it on to anyone else.
Is There Anything Else My Physician Can Do?
Your physician might also tell you to have regular check-ups with them in order to monitor your condition. A negative result can sometimes be temporary, and the virus can reappear at a later time in your life. There are several different ways of dealing with this, such as medication and lifestyle changes. Your physician will go over all of your options with you in great detail.
As always, you should avoid unprotected sexual contact for at least two weeks before taking the test. Avoiding alcohol and recreational drugs will also be beneficial to your body’s immune system and will allow for more accurate test results.
What If I Decide Not To Take The Test?
Given how specific and accurate these tests now are, you may very well decide that you do not want to know if you have a virus or not. Some people just want to get on with their lives without having to worry about the stress of waiting for test results. If you do not want to know for sure, your physician will be able to give you advice on how to proceed based on your own personal situation.
Viral load tests are available at most hospitals and clinics specializing in sexual health. A lot of physicians already have this equipment in their offices so there is no additional cost for you.
If you have questions about the test or its results, you should call your physician as soon as possible.
Viral load tests can tell you a lot about your current and previous health status. Before the test was invented, people who are infected with a virus had no way of knowing about it unless they experienced symptoms. Now there is a simple blood test that can reveal whether or not you have any viruses in your blood. Viral load tests can tell you if you have:
1. HIV- This test is usually taken by individuals who have engaged in risky sexual behavior recently.
2. Herpes- This is mostly taken by people who have an outbreak and want to know whether or not it is a herpes outbreak.
3. Hepatitis- Again, this test is usually taken by people who have engaged in risky behavior recently and want to know whether or not they need to worry about liver damage.
How To Prepare For A Viral Load Test
Taking a viral load test is no different from taking any other blood test. The main difference is that the test looks for active viruses rather than specific diseases, so you don’t need to do anything special to prepare for it except show up at your doctor’s office or medical clinic on test day.
Test day might be early in the morning or it might be sometime during the day, depending on your physician’s schedule. You don’t need to do anything beforehand except don’t eat anything after midnight the night before and don’t take any vitamins or other medications on test day. Don’t forget to take your driver’s license, health insurance card, or any other information that might be required for you to give to the receptionist when you arrive.
How A Viral Load Test Is Performed
The process for taking a viral load test is about the same as getting a regular blood test. First, you’ll need to find a nurse or phlebotomist to take the sample. This is the person who will prick your finger and take the sample.
When you find this person, they will take you to an examination room and explain the process to you. A lot of places use a large needle that makes multiple pricks on your finger and then takes the blood from all the little holes. Other places just use a small needle that goes directly into one specific place on your finger to draw the blood. It doesn’t really matter which one they use because the pain is relatively minor for either method.
The staff member will ask you to make a fist with your hand. Using either the large needle method or the small needle method, they will then prick your finger and collect the blood. They will squeeze your finger occasionally to increase the flow of blood and then put a bandage over the prick.
After this is finished, you are free to go. You don’t need to do anything else, and there is no reason to stay unless you are also having another test done.
What To Expect After The Test Is Done
Your blood will be taken to a lab for testing where it will be processed and analyzed. Your physician will get the results in a few days or weeks, depending upon how busy the lab is at the time.
What happens after these results come back depends entirely upon what they say. If your results are negative, your doctor’s visits are over.
If your results are positive, this means you now have a form of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, and treatment must begin immediately. The type and dosage of the medication you receive will be based upon the level of the virus in your blood. How far this virus has progressed, and how well your body responds to the medication will determine the course of treatment.
You may be worried about how you will pay for the expensive antiretroviral drugs that keep HIV in check, but don’t be. In 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires all private health plans sold on the marketplace to cover these vital medications. Some people don’t yet realize that the ACA also called “Obamacare” provides them with free health insurance. If you don’t have health insurance and you earn less than $11,670 a year as a single person or $23,850 as a family of four, you can apply for Medicaid.
If you are unsure of your options or would like more information about enrolling in a health insurance plan, please see the information below.
How To Enroll In Health Insurance
Applicants who already have a Medicaid card can contact their local Department of Human Services to renew their current coverage or to apply for coverage. In some states, people who qualify can enroll directly through the health insurance marketplace. If you are unsure of how to go about enrolling in a health insurance plan in your state, please see the information below.
If you would like to browse Obamacare insurance plans for yourself or your family, please see the list of marketplace websites provided below. Choose the state you live in to be directed to your marketplace website. If you do not currently live in the United States, please choose the country you live in from the list below to be directed to websites that can help you.
Enrolling Through The Health Insurance Marketplace
Applicants who already have a health insurance plan through the marketplace can log into their accounts through the marketplace website. Applicants who do not currently have a health plan can browse plans on the marketplace website by entering their state and ZIP code. Each person in your family will be required to fill out an application. Applications can be printed and mailed or completed online.
If you are unsure of which plan to choose, use the online “Help Pick A Plan” tool to be directed to a plan that best fits your needs.
Before enrolling in a health insurance plan, applicants must determine what type of plan is right for them. There are four different plan types from which to choose:
The four types of plans include: Catastrophic Plan, Bronze Plan, Silver Plan, Gold Plan, and Platinum Plan.
Catastrophic Plans are designed for people under the age of 30 or those who have experienced hardship or trials that have caused them to be uninsured. If you earn up to $12,000 a year, you may be eligible for a Catastrophic Plan.
A Bronze Plan is the basic health plan offered by the government. The monthly premium is $25 and the deductible is $5,000. This is considered to be the “average” health plan that many first-time buyers purchase.
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