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What to Do Next: False Positive
Sep 21, 2006

Dr. Frascino,

A week ago, I went to a local community clinic to be tested for HIV. The test was conducted using the OraQuick Advance test (oral fluid). I swabbed my mouth as instructed and handed the stick over to the counselor. After about 20 minutes, the counselor told me the test was negative. Just as I was about to let out a sigh of relief, the counselor changed her answer and told me the test was positive. Apparently, there was a very faint line that appeared in the test window, so the counselor recorded the results as "preliminary reactive." We followed up with the OraSure confirmation test. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck for 7 days--not eating, sleeping, or functioniong at my usual level. I got the results of the confirmation test today, and it was negative. I was relieved but also worried. Based on my own (frantic) research during the week long waiting period for the confirmation and the opinion of the counselor, I could have some other medical condition that caused the false-positive results. So, my question is, what should be my next step after receiving this information today?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

You are correct in referring to your initial test as a "false positive." As such, you need to realize you are absolutely, definitively and conclusively HIV negative. There are many potential causes for falsely positive HIV-antibody tests. Some may be related to medical conditions autoantibodies, cross-reacting antibodies, etc. Other causes of false positive tests may be related to other factors such as technical or clerical errors, for example.

What should your next step be after receiving the information that your definitive follow-up test is negative??? That's easy. I'd suggest a full-throated, ferociously committed WOOO-HOOO yell! I see no need for further worry, testing, "frantic research" or any other action whatsoever (aside form the WOO-HOO!).

Stay well.

Dr. Bob



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