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Late HIV results
Sep 12, 2010

Last March I got my physical along with some bloodwork. Last week I was urgently informed to go to the hospital. Apparently my HIV test was positive but the results were sent to a different unit until it was discovered this week. I was numb when my doctor told me of the results but now I am pretty pissed off and really anxious about not treating myself when I could have started months ago. Furthermore, I could have protected my HIV negative partner better. He just had preliminary blood work done and so far it is negative. My doctor tells me that by looking at my other blood work, there was no sign of any alarming indicators. I just had secondary bloodwork done and will find out next week about the medication I will be taking. Does waiting this long affect my health dramatically? What course of action must I take? Thank you for your time!

Response from Dr. Frascino


Your HIV-positive result was delayed a full six months??? WOWZA. No wonder you are pissed off. Obviously someone screwed up! The responsibility really rests with the physician who performed your physical examination last March and ordered the test. Not following up on a significant abnormal test result could be considered malpractice in some countries. The explanation that your result was "sent to a different unit" may well be true, but a positive HIV test is not something any unit should let languish for six months! You might want to contact AIDS Legal Services or an equivalent organization in your area to ascertain if you have any legal recourse.

As for whether you should be on combination antiretrovirals or if you've been at risk from any opportunistic infection while not on prophylaxis, you'll need to wait for the results of your CD4 count and HIV plasma viral load determinations.

Could a six-month delay affect your health? Yes, it's possible, depending on the amount if immune damage you have. However, in general untreated HIV disease is a slow and relentless process.

Only you can decide if your doctor's explanation is believable and if his apology is sincere. You also have to decide if you feel comfortable continuing to work with him. As an HIV-positive person, you should be under the care of a competent and compassionate HIV physician specialist.

Certainly mistakes happen; however, this one went unrecognized for a shockingly long and unacceptable period of time.

Dr. Bob

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