HIV Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT or NAT): HIV by PCR

HIV Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), also called HIV viral load test, measures the amount of HIV in the blood, to determine the status of the infection of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and monitor the effectiveness of antiretroviral treatment (ART) after being diagnosed with HIV.

Reference Range

  • not detected: 0 to 20 copies/ml:
  • low HIV viral load: 20 to 10,000 copies/ml
  • high HIV viral load: 10,000 to millions copies/ml

What do the results mean?

  • A normal result means no HIV was found in your blood.
  • A low viral load means the virus is not very active.
  • A high viral load generally means HIV is replicating. The higher the viral load, the more risk you have for problems and diseases related to a weak immune system. It may also mean you are at higher risk for developing AIDS.
  • When you are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART),
    • a high viral load means the treatment is not effective;
    • an increasing viral load means either the infection is getting worse or HIV has developed resistance to the drugs used in the treatment;
    • a decreasing viral load means the treatment is effective;
    • viral loads that are consistently less than 200 copies/mL mean HIV is adequately suppressed;
    • an undetectable viral load means the level of HIV RNA is currently below the threshold needed for detection by the test, not ensuring the person is cured.


Keywords: HIV Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT or NAT): HIV by PCR, HIV RNA Test, HIV Viral Load, Human Immunodeficiency Virus RNA, Quantitative

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.