I heard the claim that all HIV tests are exclusively based on identification via antibodies. Supposedly, no HIV test that's used on patients works via sequencing the RNA of the virus.

Do any AIDS test use RNA sequencing?

What's the criteria for existence?

The HIV-test is either described in detail in a academic paper by a group that used the test on multiple patients. The test finds HIV in the patients that should have HIV. It doesn't find HIV in patients that shouldn't.

Alternatively there could commercial vendor that sells the test.

  • Is the claim that this type of test does not exist, or just that it isn't used in practice?
    – Mad Scientist
    May 6, 2011 at 18:22
  • I edited my post to add a more specific criteria.
    – Christian
    May 6, 2011 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


You can detect any RNA by transcribing it to DNA using a reverse transcriptase enzyme and subsequently performing a PCR reaction (polymerase chain reaction) to amplify this DNA. This is called reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).

Those are very basic techniques that are known for quite a while now and there is no reason why they should not work on HIV. And PCR-based tests are in fact used to measure the viral load, basically the amount of viruses in your blood.

One example of this kind of test is the Roche Amplicor HIV-1 Monitor Test, FDA-approved in 1999:

The AMPLICOR HIV-1 MONITOR’” Test is an in vitro nucleic acid amplification test for the quantitation of Human lmmunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-l) RNA in human plasma.

You can also buy an MPCR Kit for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Type I/II to perform a multiplex PCR and detect various HIV genes.

  • 1
    If anyone's interested:clinically,HIV diagnosis is done using a combination of patient presentation and different tests,the HIV-enzyme linked immunosorbent assay(ELISA).Western blot test,HIV rapid antibody test(which has to be comfirmed with either western blot or HIV-ELISA).Absolute CD-4 lymphocyte count(though this is usually more to gauge progression)or absolute cd4 lymphocyte percentage(slightly more accurate than count)and of course, HIV viral load tests(which measure the amount of replicating virus)as mentioned above.Of course there are others, but these are the main ones we use. May 6, 2011 at 19:42
  • This may or may not be related, but presence of certain opportunistic infections which occur only in persons with severe immunocompromise is considered diagnostic with or without lab results, and is sometimes used as justification to start HAART (Retroviral Therapy) prior to HIV testing.Some of these include: disseminated candidiasis,cryptococcosis, CMV in organs other than the spleen, liver, lymph nodes, Pneumocystis jiroveci, Kaposi's sarcoma in a patient under 60yrs. May 6, 2011 at 19:50

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