Blood

Published: 07 April 2009

HIV has been isolated from blood at levels of up to 5000 infectious particles per millilitre (ml), but levels vary between HIV-positive individuals.

Although levels of free infectious virus may be very low in the blood of untreated asymptomatic individuals (below 200 HIV RNA copies per ml), symptomatic individuals may have a viral load above 1,000,000 HIV RNA copies per ml.

Antiretroviral therapy using a combination of drugs usually reduces viral load by at least 90% within a few weeks of initiating treatment. Blood from individuals receiving antiretroviral therapy may be less infectious, although many cases have been reported of viral burden rebounding to extremely high levels when resistance to antiretroviral drugs emerges, or when treatment is discontinued.1 2

Blood lost during menstruation is also likely to contain HIV.

References

  1. Ho DD et al. Quantitation of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 in the blood of infected persons. N Engl J Med 321:1621-1625, 1989
  2. Levy JA et al. Pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus infection Microbiological Reviews 57: 185–289, 1993
This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
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This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.