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HIV and white blood cell count?



If a person has the HIV virus, will there white blood cell count be higher or lower?

Until the HIV becomes AIDS, it won't have any effect on the white blood cell count. Then, once it becomes active, the person will have a lower blood cell count as they are destroyed by the body.
Immediate infection with HIV will cause a drop in a subset of white blood cells known as CD4 cells. These are often called T-helper cells. Following initial infection, the body and the virus will reach a set point where the immune system has been able to reasonable control of the virus (clinical but not virological latency). The major type of CD4 cells lost in the initial infection are those associate with mucosal immunity. In most cases these cells never recover.

The count will slowly decline over time, though it is not entirely clear how fast this occurs and why there is variation between individuals. Higher viral load in the blood is positively correlated with more rapid decline in T-cell counts. This is one of the major reasons to initiate HAART which will decrease viremia.

AIDS is a clinical definition that is made when T-cell count (CD4) drops below 200 or a person gets a certain disease known as an AIDS defining illness. There are a large number of these. Some examples include Toxoplasmosis, PCP, and CMV retinitis.
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