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Time Frame on PCR Testing
Feb 27, 2001

Ryan, thank you for your time. I am a bisexual man and about 22 days ago my girlfriend, myself and another bisexual man had unprotected sex. We all had oral sex, and we both inserted my girlfriend, vaginally, but, he did not ejaculate inside of her. He told us that he had been tested HIV-. About a week after this event I noticed small amount of pain in my left elbow, and of course immediately started searching the internet regarding HIV. I immediately became convinced that I had HIV and every day I would notice a new symptom, muscle aches, night sweats, sore throat, pain near my lymph nodes. I short, I panicked. My girlfriend has shown no symptoms. I went to my doctor and explained the situation to him. He took blood and did the antigen test 10 days after the unprotected sex. The antigen test came back negative. I know this is not a dispositive test. The anxiety I am feeling regarding my potential for HIV infection is devestating my life. Its been three weeks and I cannot sleep, I have trouble eating, I am consumed by the belief that I have HIV. In order to avoid waiting the three months to have a determinate antigen test, I would like to take the PCR test. I am willing to pay for it. But, I would like to know how long do I have to wait before taking that test so that I can get a definate answer regarding my HIV status. I hope I am not wasting your time, you provide a very valuable service to people like me. Thank you.

Response from Mr. Kull

Unfortunately, you can't really get a definite answer from a PCR test. First of all, it is not licensed as a tool to determine if someone is infected or not. Secondly, it's accuracy in determining infection is questionable (see Accuracy and Timing of HIV PCR Testing, http://www.thebody.com/Forums/AIDS/SafeSex/Current/Q12489.qna). Unless you see a doctor and she strongly belives that you are in the process of seroconverting, there is probably no need for PCR testing at this point. Antibody testing at three months is advisable.

So now you have all of this anxiety to manage. Even though it seems that you are at low risk for infeciton, it sounds like the anxiety is really disrupting your life. If you have the means, try to seek some counseling to help you work through some of the anxious feelings you are having.

RMK



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