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Author Topic: Understanding AIDS diagnosis  (Read 1709 times)

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Offline tooltimer

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Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« on: July 29, 2008, 06:33:42 PM »
I'm not sure which of the forums is the correct place to post this question. But I am seeking opinions from people who have worked in the HIV research industry. Thus, here is my question:

In 1997, I had back surgery.  The surgery was quite invasive because the operation was performed by going in thru my stomach.  Two disks were removed and four titanium screws were inserted between my vertebrae in my lower back.

Two months after the surgery, I started dating a woman. We started getting serious and chose to get HIV tests to make sure neither of us were POZ.  My test result came back that my t-cells were 166 and my viral load was 19,000. I was bi-curious and had sex with two other guys two years prior.  After testing positive, I informed both guys that I tested positive. They each said they then went and got tested and both said they were negative.  I have never done drugs so I know I am not POZ as a result of injectable drugs.

My question is - Is it possible to have full blown AIDS (166 t-cells), not have a clue that you are sick at all and to only have a viral load of 19,000. If I had been infected a couple years earlier, is it logical that my t-cells would be 166 and viral load only be 19,000.  I would have expected my viral load to be much, much higher.

This was my first HIV test so I have no HIV negative tests to have as a base to compare against. My doctor was adamant about me not trying to figure out how I became positive. He said to just move forward and accept the fact that I had AIDS.  I would like to understand because I really would like to know if I was HIV+ for a couple years and didn't know it or the surgery was such a shock to my immune system that the 166 t-cell count was the result of a weakened immune system resulting in my body trying to recuperate from the surgery. I've never had an infectious disease doctor educated in AIDS research enough to explain the possibilities.

I started on Crixivan within a couple weeks of being diagnosed.  My T-cells jumped from 166 to 331 and my viral load went from 19,000 to undetectable within 6 weeks. Over the past 10 years I have remained undetectable and my viral load is fluctuating between 500 and 1100.

I'm curious to know if there are any other blood tests that would be an indicator that I could have been POZ and not known it, but looking back, there would be an indicator such as low or high red blood cell count, low or high white blood cell count, etc.? 

I do have results of one blood test done a couple years prior to being diagnosed, when I had to go to the hospital emergency room.
 
Also, are there any AIDS research departments at universities that I could contact to discuss this further?

Any comments or thoughts would be appreciated.

Offline Ann

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Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2008, 09:27:45 AM »
Hi Tooltimer,

The only test that will reliably show your hiv status is an hiv antibody test. It's unclear whether or not you've ever had one of these. Viral load tests can come back with false positive results - how many VL test did you have before starting meds? How many VL tests did you have between starting meds and becoming undetectable? If you only had the one VL test prior to going on meds and becoming undetectable, and/or haven't been antibody tested, I'd be asking some questions of the doctors.

Don't forget that if you'd been having unprotected vaginal intercourse (aside from your two bi-curious liasons) you could have been infected that way.

If you have had a positive hiv antibody test - and had that confirmed with a Western Blot - then I agree with your doctor. There's not much to be gained trying to figure out when you were infected.

Ann


« Last Edit: August 30, 2008, 10:12:24 AM by Ann »
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"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline dingowarrior

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Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2008, 11:27:58 PM »
Is it possible any of the 2 guys were being less than honest?

Offline tooltimer

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  • Posts: 14
Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2008, 02:53:50 AM »
Ann,

First I did the finger stick test that you mail in to a lab and a counselor calls you if you have a POZ result.  To confirm the results I then went to a doctor and had the antibody test, anonymously. That test came back POZ. So, I next went to the department of health. At the DOH they did  complete bloodwork tests including the western blot. This bloodtest at the DOH in Jan 1998 showed that I had 166 T-cells and a 19,000 VL.  (My back surgery was just 2 months prior). I had one Viral Load test showing 19,000 before going on meds. I started meds (Crixivan) immediately.  Six weeks later I had my second Viral Load test. It came back as undetectable. My t-cells rose from 166 to 331 within the same 6 week timeframe.

I did not have any other unprotected sex with anyone except those two bi-curious liasons.

My gain is in understanding the process by how fast the viral load grows in one's body.  If I had 166 T-cells the first time tested and 19,000 VL, is that typical?  I would have thought my viral load would have been in the 100,000s+ if I only had 166 T-cells. Since the VL was low two months after the surgery and the t-cells were all the way down to 166, I'm wondering if the true t-cell count is much lower because my body just went through a major surgery two months prior. This back surgery was done after doctors had given me 5 cortesone shots in my low back, all within one year.  Later I was informed that doctors should not be giving more than 3 cortisone injections within a 12 month period.  So could the excessive cortisone shots have caused the t-cells to be unusually low right before the back surgery.

I know my question involves a few what if questions, but I really want to know the process and speed the VL grows vs how fast the t-cells can drop during the early stages of becoming infected.

The gain for me is to know whether I can trust the two guys when they said they were not POZ.  When I've lived a good life for 45 years and suddenly because POZ and have one of two guys or the operation transfusion to blame, Knowing which incident that caused the infections is important to me.  I've always trusted people and all the sudden my trust in everyone is gone.  So I want to rebuild that trust of others by educating myself.

dingowarrior - It is a possibility that one of the 2 guys were being less than honest. I thought they were friends and I was the first to admit I tested positive, I felt I was doing the difficult work to disclose my status.  So, I thought it would give them the easy out to say, "Oh, I am too." That didn't happen, so after 11 years it is still a mystery to me.

Thanks for your advice.

Offline hivsweden

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Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2008, 04:35:22 PM »

T-cells the first time tested and 19,000 VL, is that typical?  I would have thought my viral load would have been in the 100,000s+ if I only had 166 T-cells.

That is not strange at all. A few weeks after after infection the VL peaks and then drops to later fluctuate up and down.  When I was diagnosed my T-cell count was down to 48 with a VL of around 75.000 and VLs dropped when the PCP was cured and that was before starting HAART.

Offline Ann

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    • Num is sum qui mentiar tibi?
Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2008, 06:14:15 PM »
TT,

Thank you for clearing up the question of whether or not you'd had your positive antibody result confirmed.

As hivSweden says, your numbers could be the result of primary infection. HOWEVER, they could also be the result of a long-existing infection.

I can't help but get upset when people assume that a man who has been infected with hiv MUST have been infected by another man. It just isn't true and I know quite a few men personally who can tell you this. Thing is, I'm not so much bothered by someone being labeled as gay or bi who isn't, but I'm bother by the perpetuation of the idea that a man can't get infected from vaginal intercourse. It's a dangerous concept and one that is serving to increase new infections in the hetero population.

If you've ever had unprotected intercourse with women of unknown hiv status, then you might be unfairly wondering if the two men in your life are the source of your infection.

At the end of the day, does it really matter? You're hiv positive. You can't change that now. Maybe it's the women in your life you should be wondering if you can trust. But what's done is done and what matters now is that you take care of your health and do your best to prevent onward transmission.

Ann
Condoms are a girl's best friend

Condom and Lube Info  



"...health will finally be seen not as a blessing to be wished for, but as a human right to be fought for." Kofi Annan

Nymphomaniac: a woman as obsessed with sex as an average man. Mignon McLaughlin

HIV is certainly character-building. It's made me see all of the shallow things we cling to, like ego and vanity. Of course, I'd rather have a few more T-cells and a little less character. Randy Shilts

Offline tooltimer

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  • Posts: 14
Re: Understanding AIDS diagnosis
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2008, 12:44:49 AM »
Thank you Hivsweden for your input regarding your personal situation. It helps me to understand the possibilities of my situation.

And , thank you Ann for your response.  I really appreciate your comment about the possibility of a man becoming HIV+ as a result of having unprotected vaginal sex.  I hear so much about how a person can and can not contract this disease. It's so easy to assume that the logical transmission is either thru semen or infection from sharing needles. I read articles explaining the odds of becoming infected as the result of oral sex or all the other options.  Usually there is a reference to the fact that the person that could potentially become infected might have an open sore that would allow the virus to infect that person.

So, when you mentioned that I should not rule out the possibility of getting the virus from a woman, it really helped me realize all the possibilities. 

I've been POZ for 11 years and have not lost a lot of sleep wondering how I became infected.  But, when I joined this website last month and started reading the forum topics, I started thinking more about it again. 

I'm glad there are people on this forum that are willing to take the time to read and respond to each of our issues.

Thanks

 


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