HIV-1 Viral Load

Question

I just to a blood sample for my CD4. The result stated:

Examination; HIV-1 VIRAL LOAD REAL-TIME PCR

Result: <40 copies/mL (log 1.60) HIV-1 RNA DETECTED.

What does this means? Im on HAART almost a year. My next appointment at the local hospital is in October.

Thank you.

Answer

It means that the viral load is detectable below the lowest quantifiable number of 40 copies/mL. Previously, we just used to say undetectable if the HIV viral load was below the lowest number of quantitation. The assays have gotten better over time (more sensitive), so they can detect virus below 40 copies, but not provide any accurate number of what it is. In general, we are not concerned about this, because it can occur because of assay variability or small bursts of virus replication from time to time. Importantly, this does not mean that the HIV treatment is not working.