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Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in HIV-1-Infected Adults and Adolescents

Laboratory Testing

Laboratory Testing for Initial Assessment and Monitoring of HIV-Infected Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy

(Last updated: January 28, 2016; last reviewed: January 28, 2016)

A number of laboratory tests are important for initial evaluation of HIV-infected patients upon entry into care, and before and after initiation or modification of therapy to assess the virologic and immunologic efficacy of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and to monitor for laboratory abnormalities that may be associated with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Table 3 outlines the Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents (the Panel)’s recommendations on the frequency of testing. As noted in the table, some tests may be repeated more frequently if clinically indicated.

Two surrogate markers are used routinely to assess immune function and level of HIV viremia: CD4 T lymphocyte cell count and plasma HIV RNA (viral load), respectively. Resistance testing should be used to guide selection of an antiretroviral regimen. A viral tropism assay should be performed before initiation of a CCR5 antagonist or at the time of virologic failure that occurs while a patient is receiving a CCR5 antagonist. HLA-B*5701 testing should be performed before initiation of abacavir. As the treatment of hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus co-infection may impact the choice of ART, patients should be screened for these co-infections before initiating ART. The rationale for and utility of these laboratory tests are discussed in the corresponding sections of the guidelines.

Table 3. Laboratory Monitoring Schedule for HIV-Infected Patients Before and After Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapya
Laboratory Test Timepoint/Frequency of Testing
Entry into Care ART Initiationb or Modification 2 to 8 Weeks After ART Initiation or Modification Every 3 to 6 Months Every 6 Months Every 12 Months Treatment Failure Clinically Indicated If ART Initiation is Delayedc
HIV Serology
If HIV diagnosis has not been confirmed
CD4 Count

During first 2 years of ART or if viremia develops while patient on ART or CD4 count <300 cells/mm3

After 2 years on ART with consistently suppressed viral load: CD4 Count 300–500 cells/mm3:
  • Every 12 months
CD4 Count >500 cells/mm3:
  • CD4 monitoring is optional

Every 3–6 months
HIV Viral Load d e e Repeat testing is optional
Resistance Testing f         f
HLA-B*5701 Testing  

If considering ABC
Tropism Testing  

If considering a CCR5 antagonist

If considering a CCR5 antagonist or for failure of CCR5 antagonist-based regimen
Hepatitis B Serologyg,h

May repeat if patient non-immune and not chronically infected with HBVh

May repeat if patient non-immune and not chronically infected with HBVh
Hepatitis C Antibody Test
(if positive, confirm with HCV RNA test)

May repeat for at-risk patients if negative result at baseline

May repeat for at-risk patients if negative result at baseline
Basic Chemistryi,j      

Every 6–12 months
ALT, AST, T. bilirubin      

Every 6–12 months
CBC with Differential  

(if CD4 testing is done)

Every 3–6 months
Fasting Lipid Profilek    

If abnormal at last measurement

If abnormal at last measurement

If normal at baseline, annually
Fasting Glucose or Hemoglobin A1C  

If abnormal at last measurement

If abnormal at last measurement

If normal at baseline, annually

If on TDFi
  If normal at baseline, annually
Pregnancy Test  

In women with child-bearing potential

a This table pertains to laboratory tests done to select an ARV regimen and monitor for treatment responses or ART toxicities. Please refer to the HIV Primary Care guidelines for guidance on other laboratory tests generally recommended for primary health care maintenance of HIV patients.1

b If ART initiation occurs soon after HIV diagnosis and entry into care, repeat baseline laboratory testing is not necessary.

c ART is indicated for all HIV-infected individuals and should be started as soon as possible. However, if ART initiation is delayed, patients should be retained in care, with periodic monitoring as noted above.

d If HIV RNA is detectable at 2 to 8 weeks, repeat every 4 to 8 weeks until viral load is suppressed to <200 copies/mL, and thereafter, every 3 to 6 months.

e In patients on ART, viral load typically is measured every 3 to 4 months. However, for adherent patients with consistently suppressed viral load and stable immunologic status for more than 2 years, monitoring can be extended to 6 month intervals.

f In ART-naive patients, if resistance testing was performed at entry into care, but ART is not started immediately, repeat testing before initiation of ART is optional. In virologically suppressed patients who are switching therapy because of toxicity or for convenience, viral amplification will not be possible; therefore, resistance testing should not be performed. Results from prior resistance testing can be helpful in constructing a new regimen.

g If HBsAg is positive, TDF plus either FTC or 3TC should be used as part of the ARV regimen to treat both HBV and HIV infections. Preliminary data from clinical trials have demonstrated activity of TAF against HBV. Final results from ongoing clinical trials will help to define the role of TAF in the treatment of HBV/HIV co-infection.

h If HBsAg, and HBsAb, and anti-HBc are negative, hepatitis B vaccine series should be administered. Non-HBV immune individuals need evaluation for chronic infection and vaccination if not infected. Refer to HIV Primary Care and Opportunistic Infections guidelines for more detailed recommendations.1,2

i Serum Na, K, HCO3, Cl, BUN, creatinine, glucose (preferably fasting). Some experts suggest monitoring the phosphorus levels of patients on TDF. Determination of renal function should include monitoring of creatinine-based estimated glomerular filtration rate.3

j For patients with renal disease, consult the Guidelines for the Management of Chronic Kidney Disease in HIV-Infected Patients: Recommendations of the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America for patient management recommendations.3 More frequent monitoring may be indicated for patients with evidence of kidney disease (e.g., proteinuria, decreased glomerular dysfunction) or increased risk of renal insufficiency (e.g., patients with diabetes, hypertension).

k Consult the National Lipid Association’s recommendations for management of patients with dyslipidemia.4

Key to Acronyms: 3TC = lamivudine; ABC = abacavir; ALT = alanine aminotransferase; ART = antiretroviral therapy; AST = aspartate aminotransferase; CBC = complete blood count; CrCl = creatinine clearance; EFV = efavirenz; FTC = emtricitabine; HBsAb = hepatitis B surface antibody; HBsAg = hepatitis B surface antigen; HBV = hepatitis B virus; TAF = tenofovir alafenamide; TDF = tenofovir disoproxil fumarate


  1. Aberg JA, Gallant JE, Ghanem KG, Emmanuel P, Zingman BS, Horberg MA. Primary care guidelines for the management of persons infected with HIV: 2013 update by the HIV medicine association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. Jan 2014;58(1):e1-34. Available at
  2. Panel on Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Guidelines for the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections in HIV-infected adults and adolescents: recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Available at Accessed January 6, 2016.
  3. Lucas GM, Ross MJ, Stock PG, et al. Clinical practice guideline for the management of chronic kidney disease in patients infected with HIV: 2014 update by the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. Nov 1 2014;59(9):e96-138. Available at
  4. Jacobson TA, Ito MK, Maki KC, et al. National lipid association recommendations for patient-centered management of dyslipidemia: part 1--full report. J Clin Lipidol. Mar-Apr 2015;9(2):129-169. Available at

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