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Jan 16, 2001

Dear Mr. Kull,

Yesterday I heard that people who require longer to show results on a 6 month test do so due to taking antiretroviral medications and other than that, the CDC was thinking considering a 3 month window.

I only ask because the "source" was an R.N. who is considered an hiv "specialist".

I tested anywy at 22 weeks(5 months)-results pending....

Thank you with high regards!

Response from Mr. Kull

That's not always true. A very small percentage of the population -- and I mean tiny -- might take longer than six months to develop a detectable level of antibodies in response to an HIV infection. Excluding human error in the testing process, it is not really clear why someone might take longer than the standard window period to test positive.

Please don't panic about this. A test at six months has 99.9% accuracy.

In some cases, a person might start taking antiviral medication immediately after a high-risk exposure. The goal of this is to suppress viral levels enough to prevent long-term infection and to hopefully eradicate the virus. If the medications are continued and HIV is suppressed effectively, the person may not develop antibodies to HIV and have a negative result at six months. This is what the nurse was talking about (by the way, this is all theoretical and post-exposure prophylaxis has not been proven to work yet).

Your nurse's intentions to insure your faith in the test were probably good, but not wholly accurate.


std/hiv testing

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