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We assessed the HIV-1 status of seropositive and seronegative at-risk individuals by the polymerase chain reaction. Fifty-four out of 55 HIV-1-seropositive samples scored positive. However, HIV-1 proviral DNA was not detected in 16 seronegative homosexuals, 20 seronegative polytransfused haemophiliacs and 20 seronegative thalassaemic children, 20 individuals with isolated and persistent anti-core antibodies and 74 seronegative blood donors. These data indicate that positive HIV-1 DNA is likely to be an exceptional phenomenon in HIV-seronegative people.