RNA remains the most informative and accurate biomarker for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 load diagnostics and for surveillance of drug resistance markers. Viral load testing by nucleic acid amplification currently is a complex and expensive test that is restricted to centralized laboratory testing. Successful extension of centralized viral load testing to rural or remote settings is a major challenge. Emerging nucleic acid-based technologies are progressing rapidly toward platforms appropriate for field use in low-resource settings, leaving a growing gap for sample processing technologies that complement them. One area in which new technologies could be applied to improve access is clinical specimen preservation and processing. Novel technologies that extract nucleic acid from clinical specimens and stabilize it at the point of specimen collection could fill this gap. In addition, these technologies may provide alternative viral load detection and surveillance solutions to the current centralized laboratory testing paradigm.