HIV Viral Load

Testing Indications

HIV-1 viral load testing is performed on patients known to be HIV-1 positive.  It is intended for use in conjunction with clinical presentation and other laboratory markers as an indicator of disease prognosis and for use as an aid in assessing viral response to antiretroviral treatment as measured by changes in plasma HIV-1 RNA levels.

Specimen Collection and Handling

Specimen Requirements

Test Requested Required Requisition(s) Specimen Type Minimum Volume Collection Kit

HIV Viral Load

Whole blood1,2

One 10 ml tube or, Two 7 ml tubes

EDTA1,2, ACD-A1,2 or PPT1,2

HIV Viral Load


2.5 ml frozen plasma

Sterile screw capped vial

Submission and Collection Notes


Freshly drawn whole blood specimens (EDTA or PPT) may be held at 15 to 30oC for up to 6 hours or at 2 to 8oC for up to 24 hours prior to centrifugation. Following centrifugation, remove plasma from cells immediately.  Plasma specimens may be stored at 15 to 30oC for up to 24 hours or at 2 to 8oC for up to 5 days.  If longer storage of plasma specimens is required, they must be frozen at -70oC or lower.


EDTA, ACD-A,or PPT tubes that have not been centrifuged must be received at PHO Laboratory within 24 hours of collection-before 2:00 p.m. Monday - Friday.


This assay is not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV-1 or as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV-1 infection.

Preparation Prior to Transport

Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.

Special Instructions

Place specimen in a biohazard bag and seal. Vials should be stored frozen following collection. Frozen specimens should be shipped to the nearest PHO Laboratory within 2-3 days to prevent delay in testing. Ship frozen on dry ice or ice packs.

Requisitions and Kit Ordering

Test Frequency and Turnaround Time (TAT)

HIV Viral Load is performed daily Monday to Friday.

Turnaround time is up to 6 days from receipt by PHO laboratory.


Results are reported to the ordering physician or health care provider as indicated on the requisition.

Test Methods

Specimens for quantitative HIV Viral Load are tested by RT PCR using the Abbott HIV 1 Viral Load Assay. The Abbott Real Time HIV 1 test uses the m2000 automated system. It is an in vitro reverse transcription - polymerase chain reaction assay for the quantitation of HIV 1 RNA in human plasma.

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Updated 20 July 2020