The HIV Pro-Viral DNA test can be used in specific situations where there are challenges to getting an accurate HIV diagnosis with other available HIV tests including HIV Antibody tests (3rd Generation HIV test), HIV Antibody and Antigen tests (4th Generation HIV test) as well as HIV RNA PCR test.
It is especially useful in the following situations:
Diagnosing HIV in newborns born to HIV +ve mothers
Elite controllers with undetectable HIV viral load despite not being on anti-retroviral treatment
Individual with sero-negative HIV infections i.e. People who get infected with HIV but do not develop anti-HIV antibodies : see FALSE NEGATIVE HIV ELISA TEST
To understand how the HIV Pro-Viral DNA test (HIV provirus DNA) work, we need to review the HIV life cycle.
A person is infected with HIV when the virus enters into the bloodstream. The commonest way this happens is via unprotected sex however sharing of contaminated needles, receiving contaminated blood products, receiving organs of people living with HIV and re-using dental or surgical equipment without proper sterilization are also possible albeit rarer ways people get infected with HIV.
After the HIV virus enters the bloodstream, it attaches itself to a specific type of immune cell known as a CD4 cell. It then injects its genetic material into the cell.
The genetic material of HIV is a type known as RNA. In order for the HIV genetic material to combine with the host’s genes, it has to be transformed (the technical term is “reverse transcribed”) from RNA form to DNA form.
This DNA form can then be used to make multiple copies of the HIV virus. Hence its name “Pro-Viral” DNA.
The HIV Pro-Viral DNA test detects the presence of this DNA. If this DNA is detected, we can conclude that the person is infected with HIV.
How is the test conducted?
It is a simple blood test. No different from any other blood test.
How is it different from the other HIV tests?
It can be used for situations where the diagnosis of HIV is challenging (see above)
It has a lower false positive rate compared to the HIV RNA PCR test when used for diagnosis