T-cells are specialized white blood cells that play an important role in the body’s immune system. These cells have molecules called CD4 on its surface. These “helper” cells initiate the body’s response to invading micro-organisms such as viruses.

CD4 Cells – The Key to HIV Replication

HIV is a retrovirus, meaning it needs cells from a “host” in order to make more copies of itself (replication). In the case of HIV, CD4 cells are the host cells that aid HIV in replication. HIV attaches to the CD4 cells, allowing the virus to enter and infect the CD4 cells, damaging them in the process. The fewer functioning CD4 cells, the weaker the immune system and therefore the more vulnerable a person is to infections and illnesses.

Normal ValuesIn a healthy adult, a normal CD4 count can vary a great deal but is typically 600 to 1200 cells per cubic millimter of blood

Between 600 and 350In an HIV+ person, this range is considered “very good”.

Between 350 and 200The immune system is weakened and therefore the HIV+ person may be at increased risk for infection and illness.

Less that 200The immune system is severely weakened and the HIV+ person is at a much greater risk of opportunistic fungal infections e.g. thrush, cryptococcus – causing mental confusion and bacterial infections e.g Tuberculosis (TB).

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