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Antibodies present but not hiv virus
Mar 5, 2006

If you have antibodies in a hiv test, is there a chance that you may have had a close call with HIV virus but not carrying it? in other words, have they just come into contact but not carrying hiv?

Response from Dr. Wohl

There are some individuals (i.e. some sex workers in Africa, partners of HIV+ people) who have been exposed to the virus but not infected. Researchers have been able to deduce prior exposure by responses of certain immune cells from these people to the virus that indicates prior recognition of the virus by these cells.

These folk are not HIV seropositive - that is they do not have the full complement of antibodies against HIV that is seen in people who are actually infected.

There is different susceptibility to HIV among different people. As you may know, there are different parts of the T cell surface that the virus needs to enter our cells. Some people have less of these parts and therefore seem to be relatively less likely to be infected during an exposure than someone with these parts. These people are not necessarily immune and can still become infected only it is a bit more difficult. How common this phenomenon is remains unclear.

Other people who are infected with HIV and are seropositive can have very low levels of HIV in the blood and therefore be HIV+ but without a detectable HIV viral load. That occurs in perhaps 5% or so of HIV-infected persons and is associated with nonprogression of HIV disease.

DW



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