Quality of Life (Part One) : Complete Blood Count

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Back to home » HIV 101 » POZ Focus » Quality of Life (Part One)

Table of Contents

How Are You Feeling?

Ace Your Tests

Complete Blood Count

Our Cover Guy

Chem Screen

What's "Normal?"

What You're Talking About
Losing Hope (blog) (20 comments)

You Can't Hurry Love (14 comments)

I Watched Charlie Sheen on The Dr. Oz Show So You Don't Have To (blog) (14 comments)

Charlie Sheen S&%ts On 30 Years of AIDS Activism (blog) (13 comments)

Remember Their Names: World AIDS Day 2015 (blog) (12 comments)

Prudential to Offer Individual Life Insurance to People With HIV (7 comments)
Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


Complete Blood Count

If you’re feeling sluggish or fatigued, your lab report can tell you why


Meet your personal bodyguards: white blood cells (WBC), which defend against illness. They include virus-fighting CD4 cells and bacteria-battling neutrophils.

If your count’s low “Low white blood cell count is common in people with HIV,” says Alexander McMeeking, MD, a New York City–based HIV specialist. The culprits could be HIV or certain HIV drugs. Some cancers and chemotherapy drugs can also lower your count.

If your count’s high Your immune system may be cranking out additional white blood cells to fight a new infection.

What you and your doc can do Your doctor will diagnose—and treat—the underlying cause, or switch your HIV meds if necessary. She may also prescribe a medicine, such as Neupogen, to boost your neutrophil count.


Platelets are blood cells essential for clotting and healing.

If yours are low HIV may be slowing down platelet production or destroying them. In advanced HIV, low platelets can cause heavy bleeding and easy bruising.

If yours are high HIV meds can cause this, as can iron deficiency or internal bleeding.

What you and your doc can do Depending on the cause, options include taking meds such as HIV treatments, iron supplements or aspirin.


Feeling chronically sapped of energy? This area of your lab work may tell you why. It measures red blood cells (RBCs), which transport oxygen throughout the body using the protein hemoglobin (HGB). Hematocrit (HCT) refers to the amount of your blood that is occupied by red blood cells.

If your counts are low You’re anemic, which can be due to blood loss from heavy menstrual flow, nutritional deficiencies, or certain HIV meds like AZT (also found in Combivir and Trizivir).

If your counts are high You may be living at a high altitude or experiencing a chronic respiratory problem, dehydration or irregular hormone levels (the latter a common side effect of testosterone replacement therapy).

What you and your doc can do The other blood tests—such as the size of your red blood cells (MCV and RDW) and the amount of hemoglobin in them (MCH and MCHC)—along with additional detective work, can determine the cause of your anemia. Your doctor can switch your HIV meds, help you improve your nutrition or prescribe an anemia drug like Procrit.


  • weight and body mass index
  • blood pressure
  • mammogram
  • cervical and anal pap smears
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • colonoscopy
  • bone density
  • free and total testosterone levels
  • prostate-specific antigen (PSA)

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