Your lab tests—in plain English
Blood tests are a pain in the arm—they shouldn't make your head hurt, too. But once the reports come back, it can be like a chemistry-class nightmare. You know your health depends on these numbers, but—what the heck is a CD8? Is "bilirubin" a new cough syrup? Which tests should you get, when and why?
When this report was originally published in 2003, longtime POZ friend and HIVer Michelle Lopez agreed to share the results of her blood work to help us explain five of the major tests that help docs assess your health. (Click on the links at your right for a Michelle-guided lab tour!) Knowledge is power, we say. Michelle agrees. "My lab work is what gives me my level of comfort with where I'm at, at this stage of the disease. Not knowing is what scares me."
We caught up with Michelle again in October 2005, and she told us she still gets a blood workup every three months or so and still keeps her stats in a loose-leaf binder. But some things have changed. In 2003, Michelle's viral load had just gone up, so her doc did a resistance test. Her virus had in fact developed some resistance to the regimen she was on—Michelle's seventh since going on single-dose AZT in 1991—and so she switched to Kaletra and Trizivir, her current combo still.
Being an HIV professional herself helps Michelle follow and understand her labs and those of her HIV-positive daughter, Raven, 15. She also pores over the tests with her doctor, Susan Ball, who works with Michelle and talks about treatment strategy with her. "I'm not a lab geek," Michelle explains. "She just respects my opinions and I respect hers."
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