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assay variability
Mar 12, 2006

That phrase always gets me (irrationally) annoyed. While I understand that a three-fold change in numbers (both CD4 as well as VL?) is within "assay variability," to a non-scientist that just seems "intuitively" difficult to accept. (It's a bit like quantum physics and string theory and Einsteinian thought experiments -- it all just seems bizarre to the uninitiated.) Let's say that one set of VL numbers was 50K; next one 130K -- within assay variability so not necessary bad news. Likewise a drop from 50K to, say, 20K is not necessaryily good news (viewed in isolation). Am I right so far?

By the way, these are not purely hypothetical examples: I've had a very difficult time convincing a friend that a jump from 7K to 14K doesn't mean that he's a rapid progressor, that we have to look at trends and CD4 absolute (in the 400s) and %ages (in the 20s) so treatment is almost certainly not indicated at this point...

So is there a way to explain "assay variability" to an intelligent curious layperson that will make it sound more "reasonable"?

Final note: it's struck me again how differently different people cope with tough news. I feel infinitely better and in at least some control the more information I have, so I tend to (over-) research HIV stuff; while others don't want any details, just "Is this good or is this bad?"

Thank you doc!

Response from Dr. Holodniy

You are correct in your example of "assay variability". Always happy to entertain a better way to explain it.



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