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So anxious I can no longer sleep or eat

Jun 8, 2005

Dear Dr. Bob, My situation is unusual, and seems to be the reverse of many others who test ELISA positive and WB negative. I am a healthcare worker who had a needle stick injury at work about a month ago. The woman was pretty low risk, 82 years old and never married, and it had been a sub Q as opposed to an IV injection. She was very healthy except for her broken hip. However, protocol demanded I get an HIV/Hep B baseline drawn. I went down to our huge, extremely busy ER and was drawn. It was a busy Friday night. Two weeks later, I get a call telling me I am positive. This was a huge surprise, to say the least. I had supposedly had a pos ELISA followed by a Western Blot that was strong pos for 3 bands and indeterminate on a 4th. I have absolutely zero risk factors for a prior infection, with the exception of a surgery 10 years ago. I have had no symptoms. I went to follow up with my own doc, who drew only an ELISA cause this disease is not something he is familiar with. The ELISA was negative. He sent a second ELISA a month later. THis was also negative. (If I am truly positive, what is the likelyhood that this could happen?) He refuses to send a Western Blot, as he thinks two negative ELISA's are pretty conclusive. He told me that my blood from the ER was likely confused with someone else's. (There were no labels on the tubes when I was drawn.) My question is, would you concur? I don't dare hope that this is true. I have been so sick with worry that I can't sleep, nor can I eat. I have dropped 7 pounds in the last month due to this inability to eat, and I am beginning to have panic attacks. I can't seem to stop obsessing over this. Any information that you could provide would be much appreciated. I know that I will need to be retested in 3-6 months for the needlestick injury, but that is not my major concern right now. Thanks.

Response from Dr. Frascino


I absolutely agree with your doctor: you are HIV negative. Western Blot tests should only be ordered to confirm positive ELISA tests. The entire situation needs to be reviewed by your hospital, as a very serious mistake was made that could have had disastrous consequences. If the tubes were switched or mislabeled, then some HIV-positive individual could have gotten your "negative" results and you could have gotten someone else's positive results. Plus there is the anxiety you've experienced as a result of this error. Get a lawyer, if necessary, but do make sure this entire incident is fully evaluated and investigated.

Write back and let me know what happens, OK?

Dr. Bob

Just thanks
HIV negative with somewhat low CD4 count. Concern?

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