During assembly of HIV-1 particles in infected cells, the viral Pr55(Gag) protein (or Gag precursor) must select the viral genomic RNA (gRNA) from a variety of cellular and viral spliced RNAs. However, there is no consensus on how Pr55(Gag) achieves this selection. Here, by using RNA binding and footprinting assays, we demonstrate that the primary Pr55(Gag) binding site on the gRNA consists of the internal loop and the lower part of stem-loop 1 (SL1), the upper part of which initiates gRNA dimerization. A double regulation ensures specific binding of Pr55(Gag) to the gRNA despite the fact that SL1 is also present in spliced viral RNAs. The region upstream of SL1, which is present in all HIV-1 RNAs, prevents binding to SL1, but this negative effect is counteracted by sequences downstream of SL4, which are unique to the gRNA.