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Will HIV show up faster in one person vs another?
Jan 21, 2006

I found out that I was Positive in October after being seriously ill in Sept. My partner got tested after I told him and tested negative. My only other partner since my last testing is also testing negative. But since I was so sick in Sept I thought I had just contracted it from my current partner. Is it possible that he could have had it and gave it to me but only tested negative b/c it can take up to 6 months to show up?

Response from Dr. Remien

I am not a medical expert, but yes, it is "possible" for somebody to test "antibody" negative while infected with HIV. It does take some time for the immune system to develop antibodies to the virus, which is what the standard HIV test measures. Most people develop detectable antibodies within three months (or less). And with increasing sensitivity of the antibody tests, many people will test antibody positive within weeks of infection.

However, it is important for people to know that when someone is recently (i.e., acutely) infected, that person is usually highly infectious due to a high viral load that typically occurs prior to the development of HIV antibodies. There is a test that can detect actual virus in the absence of antibodies and this is essentially a viral load test (i.e., the test that people living with HIV have regularly in their doctors' offices). If people are concerned about a possible "recent" infection, they should discuss this with their doctor, or an HIV test counselor, and if it seems warranted, a viral load test can be done, along with a standard HIV antibody test.

Also, it is likely that your illness in September was what is called an "acute viral syndrome" shortly after becoming infected with HIV. So people should be aware that a 'flu-like syndrome" can be an indication of an HIV infection if they have recently engaged in behavior that carries risk for transmission of HIV. So they should consult with a physician if this happens and they also need to keep in mind, that it could "just be the flu," so should not panic every time they feel sick.

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