Measurements of cluster of differentiation (CD) 4 (CD4) absolute counts and viral load are the two common tools used to monitor disease progression in HIV-1-infected patients on drug therapy. However, there are certain limitations in the use of these tools. Although patients on highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART) will often exhibit suppressed viral load within the first three weeks of treatment, this is commonly not necessarily accompanied by rapid changes in absolute CD4 counts, thus rendering measurement of levels of CD4 cells unreliable indicators of efficacy of the anti-retroviral treatment at the early stages of intervention.
Currently, only viral load determination offers a reliable prognostic indicator for antiretroviral (ARV) treatment. However, the cost of estimating viral load is prohibitive, making it difficult for adoption as a routine test. There is need therefore to identify other markers whose levels change rapidly following ARV treatment. Previous studies conducted in Ivory Coast on HIV-1 indicate that CD8+/CD38+ activation molecule can be a sensitive and independent marker.