Among the different markers of HIV persistence in infected cells, total HIV DNA is to date the most widely used. It allows an overall quantification of all viral forms of HIV DNA in infected cells, each playing a different role in HIV replication and pathophysiology. The real-time PCR technology is to date, a precise, sensitive and reproducible technology that allows the description of the distribution of HIV infected cells in blood and tissues. The objective of this review is to present some examples which show the interest to quantify total HIV DNA levels. This marker brought an undeniable and considerable contribution to reservoir studies. Many results, both in clinical and basic research, allowed to get a large overview of the distribution of infected cells in the body, at all stages of HIV disease and during therapy. Future clinical studies aiming at reducing HIV reservoirs will benefit from HIV DNA quantification in blood and tissues, in association with other markers of HIV reservoir activity.
Keywords: CD4 + T cell subsets; Real time PCR; Reservoirs; Total HIV DNA.