Hiv Viral Load
HIV Viral Load (Thomas Splettstoesser / CC0)

HIV Viral Load: Definition, Test, and 3 Results

HIV Viral Load: Definition, Test, and Results – Doctors define viral load as the number of copies of HIV in a milliliter of blood (copies/ml). Initially, doctors used viral loads to check HIV status after diagnosis. Then, viral load is used to monitor the success of HIV treatments using antiretroviral drugs (ARV). Therefore, PLHIV is recommended to routinely perform viral load tests.

When a person is infected with HIV, the virus replicates in his blood. The more copies of the virus, the higher a person’s viral load. If there is a high number of copies of the virus in the blood, this indicates that there are also high amounts of other bodily fluids such as vagi**nal fluids and se**men. The main purpose of HIV treatment itself is to reduce viral load to the point where there are so few copies of the virus left that the virus is not detected in the blood.

What is HIV viral load?

Viral load is the range of the number of viral particles and the amount of HIV RNA per 1 ml (1 cc) of blood samples.

In other words, viral load is the benchmark for how far and fast the disease develops in the body known through the number of viruses in the blood sample.

The more viral particles in the blood means the higher your risk of transmitting the virus and experiencing HIV complications, such as opportunistic infections and AIDS.

Viral load can provide information about the extent of a person’s HIV stage, as well as how well antiretroviral treatment (ART) controls infections in the body.

What is HIV viral load test?

The viral load test is a test to measure the amount of HIV virus in the blood. There are several ways to perform this test:

  • The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) method uses an enzyme to duplicate HIV in the blood sample. Then a chemical reaction marks the virus. Markers are measured and used to calculate the number of viruses. This type of test was made by Roche and Abbott.
  • The bDNA (branched DNA) method combines light-incurring materials with blood samples. This material binds to HIV germ. The amount of light is measured and used as the number of viruses. This type of test is made by Bayer.
  • The NASBA (nucleic acid sequence based amplification) method doubles viral proteins in order to be counted. This type of test is made by bioMerieux.

Each test shows different results for the same example. Because the test results are different, we should still use the same type of test to monitor viral load trends. 

Viral load is usually reported as a copycat number or copies of HIV in a milliliter of blood (copies/mm3). The result is often referred to as numbers only, without being called a unit.

The upper limit of the test is approximately 1 million, and continues to be refined so that it becomes more sensitive. The lower limit of the first bDNA test is 10,000. Second-generation test models can measure up to 48. There are currently highly sensitive tests capable of detecting fewer than five copies.

The best viral load test results are those reported as ‘undetectable’. This does not mean there are no viruses in the blood; this means only that the number of viruses that exist is not enough to be found and calculated from the test. 

All the first viral load tests use samples of frozen blood. Now good results are achieved with drying samples. This will reduce the cost of freezing and shipping tools.

Interpreting HIV viral load test results

HIV Viral load test results can be categorized as high, low, or undetectable:

High Viral load

Viral load results above 100,000 indicate a high amount of HIV in the blood. However, this figure is not the upper limit as some patients could have 1 million viral copies of their viral load test results. High viral load results indicate that the virus in the patient’s body continues to replicate. Infections in the patient’s body also tend to increase rapidly.

A lower viral load

If the viral load test results show under 10,000 copies of the virus, then the doctor may refer to it as a lower category. This category indicates that HIV in the blood does not reproduce very quickly. However, it is important to remember that these results were not being optimal enough in the purpose of HIV treatment.


Viral load results under 20 copies of the virus show undetectable categories. This result is the goal of HIV treatment therapy is optimal. It’s important to remember that an “undetectable” viral load doesn’t mean the patient is cured. However, by maintaining these results, patients can have the same life expectancy or approach the same as ordinary people.

Undetectable viral loads also indicate that patients have a very small risk of transmitting HIV to others. However, doctors usually still recommend using con**doms during s**ex.

Read also:
HIV Drug List

Last Updated on September 2, 2020 Reviewed by Market Health Beauty Team