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Clinical Observation
July 14, 2003

Underestimation of HIV-1 Plasma Viral Burden in Patients Who Acquire Infection Abroad: The Experience in a Community Hospital Clinic

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Metrowest Medical Center, Framingham, Mass, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester. The authors have no relevant financial interest in this article.

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(13):1613-1614. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.13.1613

In a suburban teaching hospital clinic, we diagnosed human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection in 10 patients who acquired the infection in Africa or Asia. All the patients had low viral plasma HIV RNA levels. This finding likely represents underestimation of true plasma viral burden in patients infected with non-B serotypes of HIV-1. Clinicians caring for immigrants with HIV infection need to be aware of the limitations of current commercial assays for the quantification of HIV-1 plasma viral burden, and better assays are needed for non-B HIV-1 serotypes.