An independent quality assurance program has been established by the Virology Committee of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group in the Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, for monitoring polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays for human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) DNA that are performed by 11 laboratories participating in multicenter clinical trials in the United States. To perform HIV-1 DNA PCR for patients in AIDS Clinical Trials Group protocols, each laboratory was initially certified by correctly testing a coded certification panel consisting of eight well-defined clinical whole-blood specimens and 30 cell pellets containing 0, 2, 5, 10, 20, or 50 8E5/LAV cells per 125,000 uninfected peripheral blood mononuclear cells. PCR was performed by one of two standardized commercial assays for amplification and nonisotopic detection of HIV-1 proviral DNA. For continuing certification, each laboratory must correctly test eight coded whole-blood samples per quarter and run three or four coded cell pellets and HIV-1 DNA copy standards with every PCR assay in real time. The PCR results for the coded pellets on each run are entered into an encrypted computer file, which immediately assesses the validity of the run. To date, 10 of 11 laboratories have correctly tested all HIV-1-positive and -negative samples in the initial certification panel on their first or second attempt. Subsequently, 9 of these 11 laboratories have continued to maintain their certified status. The use of commercial HIV- 1 DNA PCR assays and an external quality assurance program have ensured that results from different laboratories are comparable and that problems with sensitivity and specificity are quickly identified.