Testing for antibodies and not the virus
Apr 21, 2002
Why are HIV tests designed to detect antibodies and not the virus? I am a social worker who runs a sexual health program in four homeless shelters. One of my clients asked me this question and I was not sure that I answered it correctly. I explained that I thought the reason for testing for antibodies was because HIV conceals itself very well inside the T cell, incorporating itself into the cell's genetic material. Is this correct?
Response from Dr. Holodniy
HIV circulates in two forms, cell free in the blood plasma and inside T cells. In those who are infected, HIV can be detected and measured as "viral load" in the plasma, so it is not concealed from detection.
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