Q and A


What does a non-detectable viral load mean?

I am now into my 22nd year of living with HIV and have been non-detectable for 10 years now. I have been on antiretrovirals the entire time, have tolerated them fairly well and have never been seriously ill. I started with a CD4 of 80 and have been above 350 for many years going as high as 670 in 2007. In 2008, my CD4 is 505. My viral load remains non-detectable. I know enough to be very grateful.

Also, as a sidebar note. I experienced facial wasting ten years ago and had facial filler (Sculptra) injections last year. I must say that the results, even after two sessions, were amazing. I had three treatments total and I remain extremely pleased with the outcome. I have my face back! I have medium brown skin and suffered no scaring at the injection sites. This process has really given my self-esteem and quality of life a super boost.


Thank you for your question.

Viral load test is a key marker to whether treatment is working. When you achieve a non-detectable or undetectable viral load it shows that the treatment is working.

An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in your blood is below the threshhold needed for detection by this test.

Being able to maintain an undetectable viral load for ten years is great. It shows your good adherence and that your treatment is working. So, well done and keep taking your treatment.

This link has more information about different cut off levels for an undetectable viral load – ie 200, 50 and 20 copies/mL.

This answer was updated in May 2021 from an original question in February 2008.


  1. hardee

    antibody reactive
    ART start
    rna viral load traget not detected lal path lab

  2. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Sello,

    When someone had a less detectable viral load, or as it’s commonly called undetectable viral load, they can’t transmit HIV. Please see here: http://i-base.info/u-equals-u/

  3. Sello


    What is meant by less detectable viral load?
    Will I get infected if I had unprotected sex with a person who has”less detectable viral load”


  4. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Asa,

    Not detected means that HIV is undetectable. This is the aim of HIV treatment (ART) for people who test HIV positive. It looks as though your ART meds are working well. What did the doctor say about this result?

  5. Asa

    I did HIV 1RNA TEST but result show as
    Not detected so what this mean?

  6. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Ana,

    This sounds like great news.

    What HIV meds are you on, and how long have you been taking them? They sound like they’re working well. Getting viral load to undetectable is the aim of HIV treatment (ART)>

    Undetectable viral load means getting a result that’s below 50 copies/mL. So the result can be below 50 and not detected, this could mean that no copies of HIV were found in your test.

    However, any result below 50, such as 40 or 20, is called undetectable.

    The great news is that undetectable = untransmittable (U=U). Please see more info about U=U here.

  7. Ana

    I had HIV for 20yrs,and the Dr. Just told me that is not-detective.Is there a difference from undetectable or is the same thing?

  8. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Avinash,

    Viral load tests are not approved for diagnosing HIV testing. But instead you need to take a combined test for antibody and antigen. Please see this link about What different tests are used to test for HIV?

  9. Avinash

    Hi Team,

    Whats my result mean I am confused.

    The RNA test done after 50 day of exposure no prep no treatment ( condom broke exposure)

    Result is HIV -1 RNA detected less the 20 copy?? ( What it means)
    M I negative? Your expert comment needed to ease my mind.

  10. Ntobeko

    Hlw i wrote last time telling u that im scaref im waiting for my result frm vlinic today o found them and im lower than unfetectable im now happy and i will keep on doing right things avcording to my meds thanks


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