ZocdocAnswersDoes HIV stop the production of white blood cells?

Question

Does HIV stop the production of white blood cells?

My partner is HIV positive and I'm trying to understand the science behind his condition. Does HIV actually stop the production of white blood cells, or does it just kill them faster than they're produced? Because if it's the latter, wouldn't it be helpful to find a way to get his body to produce more white blood cells?

Answer

As you probably know, HIV is a chronic, incurable infection of the immune system decreasing its ability to fight off infections. Your view of HIV is correct, but I will give you some details that may help you understand it better. HIV infects a certain type of white blood cell called the T helper cell. When the virus is not being treated with medications, it is aloud to kill the T helper cells very quickly. It does not necessarily stop them from being produced. If someone has an active, untreated HIV infection, the T helper cells would be destroyed no matter how fast they are produced because the virus greatly outnumbers the number of cells. Therefore enhancing T helper cell production would not be helpful. Only keeping the virus from producing more viruses has been shown to keep the infection under control. The good news is that with our new therapies, the virus can be held at bay for many years. With good medication tolerance and compliance, patients may live a full life span. The key is to take all medications as directed and keep regular visits with an HIV specialist I suggest join your partner at his next visit with the physician that treats his HIV. Write down some of these important questions before going so that you are able to remember them. Being as educated as possible about the virus and its transmission will go a long way in preventing transmission. Good luck.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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