Using an experimental assay for isothermal amplification of HIV RNA in plasma (NASBA, Organon Teknika, Boxtel, The Netherlands), 70 samples from 59 HIV-1-infected persons and 29 samples from 28 uninfected volunteer blood donors were tested for the presence of HIV-1 RNA. The HIV-1-positive plasma samples were drawn from patients at various stages of infection: two samples from persons with signs of acute HIV infection (CDC stage I); 29 samples from 25 symptom-free persons (CDC stage II) and 39 samples from 32 persons with AIDS-related symptoms (CDC stage IV). All samples from HIV-1-infected persons had HIV-1 RNA, irrespective of the stage of infection (100% sensitivity). Testing the donor samples in duplicate, initially 54/58 samples (93%) tested negative for HIV-1 RNA. Repeated testing of the 4 samples with inconsistent test results showed all samples to be negative (specificity 100%). Detection of HIV-1 RNA in plasma by isothermal amplification (NASBA) promises to be a valuable alternative to the detection of HIV-1 RNA or DNA by the polymerase chain reaction.