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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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viral load increase

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