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Understanding Undetectable Viral Load Numbers
Apr 15, 2007

Hello there, thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

Last week my boyfriend got the results of his lab, and requested a copy of his recent labs. The one prior to this one he had an undetectable viral with <400. And his most recent lab he had was at undetectable viral load with <50. It was such good news, I'm so proud of him.

But we have a question on that, what exactly is the < mean? We don't understand what it means, and he didn't get a chance to ask his doctor. Is <50 better then <400? It seems like it, but if you could explain it in detail, and what the scale is, I'd appreciate it.

Can you also explain the ranges in undetectable amounts?

Thank you very much.

Response from Dr. Holodniy

Yes, < 50 copies/mL of blood plasma is better than < 400 copies/mL. The difference is the threshold of HIV copy detection. One test quatifies down to 400 copies and the other quantifies down further to 50 copies. The assays are not sensitive enough to quantitate accurately down to zero, so that is why the result is expressed the way it is.



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