Determining the HIV-1 reservoir size in infected individuals is of great importance for improvement of their treatment. Plasma trans-activation response element (TAR) RNA has been suggested as one of the possible biomarkers. TAR RNA is produced during non-processive transcription in HIV-1 productively infected and latent T cells. Here, plasma samples and paired exosome samples of 55 subjects from the observational SCOPE cohort were analysed for the presence of TAR RNA. First, a PCR-based assay was optimized, which provided 100% specificity and 100% sensitivity in differentiating HIV-1 infected non-controllers from uninfected individuals. Next, TAR RNA was detected in the plasma of 63% of aviremic HIV-1-infected patients, who were either treated with antiretroviral therapy or were elite controllers. Although TAR RNA levels did not correlate with patient gender, age, CD4 levels, CD8 levels, they tended to correlate with CD4/CD8 ratio (P = 0.047). This study is the first to investigate plasma TAR RNA in a relatively large cohort of HIV-1-infected patients. We additionally show that the TAR RNA molecules in the plasma of aviremic patients are not limited to exosomes.