Viral load is the term used to describe the amount of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in blood.
The more HIV there is in blood (and therefore the higher the viral load), the faster CD4 cell count will fall, thus greater your risk of becoming ill.
If there is so little HIV in blood that the viral load is ‘undetectable’, then the risk of HIV being passed on during sex is extremely low, even if condoms aren’t used.
Viral load tests measure the amount of HIV’s genetic material in a blood sample.
Having an undetectable viral load is important for a number of reasons.
First of all, because the immune system is able to recover and become stronger, it means that there is a very low risk of becoming ill.
It also reduces risk of developing some other serious illnesses as well that are HIV related.
Secondly, having an undetectable viral load means that the risk of HIV becoming resistant to the anti-HIV drugs is very small.
Finally, having an undetectable viral load massively reduces the risk of passing on HIV to someone else.
Disclosing to a child his or her HIV status is an emotionally taxing process that a lot of care givers or parents tend to avoid or postpone.
Tinotenda Bande the son of Nesta Bande was diagnosed with HIV shortly after his birth.
For a long time his mother Nesta gave him Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs without explaining what they were for.
She never told him what the pills he was constantly taking were for because she feared that her child would be unable to fully understand the condition and would face stigma and isolation from peers, and may tell others about their “family secret.”
As he grew he became more and more inquisitive so much that she began telling him that he was asthmatic.
Even though he had been told he was asthmatic thus he had to take his medication he continue to query why his sister Primrose was not taking medication.
“Ndaimuudza kuti une asthma kubva uri mucheche, inotoda kuti umwe mapiritsi ako aya kuti isazokurwadza,” she said.
As days went by she was then introduced to Mavambo Orphan Care who began to assist her in paying school fees for Tinotenda who also referred her to the clinic were she also met with Community Adolescent Treatment Supporters or ‘CATS’ who are based in Caledonia.
The CATS provided information, counselling and support for her and her son through home visits, clinic visits and support groups.
Before the assistance she received her son had been secretly averting medication hence his viral load rose high.
The CATS helped telling him why he was supposed to be taking his medication in a way that he understood.
They also administered viral load monitoring and enhanced adherence counselling which helped Tinotenda to understand better.
Soon after this Nesta began to notice that Tinotenda would no longer lie if he had not taken his medication.
She also engaged close monitoring were by she made sure he would take in case he forgot.
As a result his viral load began to drop to an extent that it is undetectable at the moment.
Tinotenda said that he is better equipped now as he understands better from the counselling he received.
“Handicharege kumwa mushonga wangu nekuti ndavakunzwisisa kuti unondibatsira kuti ndigone kurarama zvakanaka sevamwe,” He said.