My sister, who is HIV-positive, was put on ARVs when her CD4 count was only 20 cells/ml. After being on the drugs for only six months, she stopped taking them, claiming she had been healed after being prayed for.
When we checked her CD4 count then, it had risen to 90 cells/ml. Six months after she stopped taking ARVs, her CD4 count has risen to 140 cells/ml and she has even put on weight! Could it be that she has actually healed?
The goal of treating PLHIV with ARVs is to suppress the virus, which destroys the body’s immune system, thus predisposing them to diseases that characterise AIDS. These are the so-called opportunistic infections.
A rise or fluctuation in the CD4 count does not, therefore, mean your sister does not have HIV. If you were able to check her viral load, which is a measure of how active HIV in her body is, you would find it is still there and, most likely, high.
The fact that your sister’s CD4 count is still below the normal range of 400-1500 cells/ml means she is still at risk of being attacked by serious opportunistic infections even though she has put on weight and looks healthy.
HIV is a chronic infection characterised by periods of ill health and well being, which might dupe one into thinking they are healed. But in the end, it kills its victim when the immune system is badly damaged and cannot protect him or her.
Whereas prayer is commended as part of positive living, PLHIV should continue taking their ARVs regularly even as they pray. Feeling well and even putting on weight does not mean someone has been cured of HIV. Treating PLHIV with ARVs should continue for life if we are to stop AIDS-related deaths.