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Strange But Serious Question
Mar 22, 2006

Dr. Wohl:

I have heard of people having a undetectable Viral Load yet Hiv+. Is it possible to get a negative result even though you are positive because of low amounts of antibodies in your blood even though you've been way past the testing window period, do some people always stay with low, undetectable antibody levels? Thanks.

Young and Dumb Gay Guy in S.F. Just Starting Out!

Response from Dr. Wohl

Dear YDGGSF,

Some people (~5%) with HIV infection have such low levels of HIV in their blood that the viral load test can not quantify the amount of virus present. These people are therefore 'undetectable' but they are HIV+. That is they did have higher levels of HIV in their blood early in their infection and did mount an antibody response to the virus.

The trick is to not confuse the HIV viral load (detect and count the virus present) with the HIV antibody tests (detect antibodies the body makes when it first encounters HIV). Antibodies to HIV generally stay present forever after they are created so that even in those who naturally have low levels of HIV and those who have achieved undetectable HIV viral loads with meds do not loose their antibodies and remain HIV antibody positive.

DW



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