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research on testing
May 29, 2010

Hi, Can you tell me if there is any current research taking place to develop a rapid HIV test that looks for virus instead of antibodies? I work and live in Botswana where we are learning that a lot of infections take place during the first few months of infection (when the postive person doesn't even know they are infected). Here we are currently using the rapid HIV antibody tests which give results in just a few minutes at the VCT - but the test is looking for antibodies. Wouldn't it be helpful if we could eliminate the "window period" given that the window period also coincides with a time when a person is MOST infectious? Please tell me that someone is reseraching this. it would be most helpful if this test is in the not-so-distant pipeline.

Response from Dr. McGowan

Thank you for your questions. You are correct when you say that during acute HIV infection that the HIV antibody test can be negative. In someone who contracts HIV, the antibody test usually turns positive four to six weeks after exposure. During this "window period" the HIV antibody test can be negative but the plasma viral load will be detectable ususally to very high levels. Most people have symptoms during the acute phase of HIV infection (fever, rash, sore throat, swollen glands among other symptoms) and most present to medical care so the medical provider could perform both a viral load test and an HIV antibody test to determine acute HIV infection. Thanks Joe



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