The CD4 cells, also referred to as CD4+T cells or helper cells, are a form of white blood cells that move around the body and play a vital role in fighting infection and the overall function of the immune system.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system which results in a low CD4 count in people with HIV. Although there is currently no cure for HIV infection, the correct HIV treatment can help to gradually boost CD4 count over time and prevent any potential damage. The most common of these treatments is antiretroviral therapy (ART).

See also: What is the Treatment for HIV?

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How can I increase my CD4 count naturally?

The only reliable way to increase CD4 cell count over time is with HIV treatment - antiretroviral therapy (ART). This treatment is recommended for those who are HIV positive - no matter how long they may have the virus, and it ultimately works towards keeping the viral load low and CD4 count high.

Starting treatment early can help in reducing any potential long term damage of the virus including opportunistic infections as well as reducing the amount of HIV in the blood [1], other benefits of HIV treatment include:

  • Reduces risk of passing HIV on to others
  • Prevents drug resistance

See also: What are the Stages of HIV?

With that said, there are some important steps that can be taken towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle and maintaining the immune system and immune function, these steps include:

Healthy eating

Healthy eating and good nutrition can help support overall wellbeing and health, it may also help those with an HIV diagnosis stick to a healthy weight. The basic diet guidelines for those with HIV are pretty similar to the common healthy eating guidelines [2], these include:

  • Eat a balanced diet including foods from all five food groups
  • Choose low-fat sources of protein
  • Cut back on sugary drinks
  • Choose foods low in saturated fats

Regular exercise

Being HIV positive doesn’t mean the benefits of exercise differ! While regular exercise can help boost your mood and increase your strength, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it can also promote a healthy immune system and help your immune system work better to fight infection [3].

Quit smoking

If you are a regular smoker, it’s important to take steps towards quitting. Those living with HIV that smoke are more likely to have a poorer response to HIV treatment and are also more likely to develop life-threatening conditions such as lung cancer or neck cancer [4].

See also: HIV and Pneumonia: What’s the Connection?

How long does CD4 take to increase?

For those who start antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible following diagnosis, it’s common to get the virus under control within the first six months. This means that CD4 count increases and viral load will stay low.

To get the best outcomes from antiretroviral therapy (ART), it’s crucial to take treatment exactly as your healthcare provider or doctor as prescribed. If you are having issues sticking to your treatment or your treatment isn’t working, it’s important to stick with your doctor who may need to change your prescription and/or treatment.

See also: HIV Viral Load: What is Viral Load?

Does ART increase CD4 count?

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) works towards increasing CD4 count and keeping them at a higher, and healthier, level.

In a study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, beginning ART early saw a large increase in CD4 cell counts and low or undetectable viral load - the study also confirmed that treatment can help in almost completely lowering the possibility of transmission [5].

See also: Opportunistic Infections: Types, Causes, and Prevention

What is a healthy CD4 count?

It’s normal for your CD4 count to be checked by your health care provider every three months. The higher the CD4 count, the healthier the immune system - this is why a higher CD4 cell count is indicative of a better functioning immune system.

While the CD4 count for those without HIV typically ranges between 500-1500, people living with HIV may have [6]:

  • CD4 count of over 500: This means that treatment is effective and the person is in good enough health
  • CD4 count below 200: This means the person is at high risk of developing a serious illness, this includes AIDS

See also: HIV and Pneumonia: What’s the Connection?

It’s important to keep in mind that many people might not experience any signs or symptoms of HIV and early detection is key to beginning treatment and going on to live a healthy life - this is why it’s so important to regularly screen your sexual health.

Testing for HIV can be done with your local doctor or from home with an at-home lab test. LetsGetChecked’s STI Tests detect some of the most common sexually transmitted infections. The test for HIV involves a simple finger-prick sample and online results will be available within 2-5 days. Our dedicated medical team will be available throughout the process to provide support and guidance in any way they can.

You consider taking a test if:

  • You should also consider getting tested if:
  • You become sexually active
  • You have had unprotected sex
  • You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
  • You are entering into a new sexual relationship
  • You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected (STIs can remain dormant for years and/ or take up to three weeks to become detectable.)

See also: How do you Check for HIV From Home?

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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV Treatment. Online:
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Living with HIV. Online:
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Living with HIV. Online:
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy Living with HIV. Online:
  5. Sereti I et al. ART in HIV-positive persons with low pretreatment viremia: Results from the START trial. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr, 81: 456-62, DOI: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000002052, 2019.
  6. What to Expect at Your First HIV Care Visit. Online:, 2017