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Viral Load Test as Diagnosis?
Oct 24, 2007

Hi there,

Thanks for this super helpful forum.

I was recently exposed to HIV: I performed oral sex on and briefly topped (unprotected) a person who lied about their status to me, but told the truth afterwards -- that they were positive. I started PEP with Kaletra and Combivir within five hours of exposure, and I think that realistically speaking my chances of acquiring HIV are very low.

I'm still extremely nervous, though, and so my doctor suggested I have a viral load test in a month. He said that, as opposed to the viral antibody test where I'd have to wait 3-6 months, this would give me a clear result in a month. I'm concerned, though. I'm on antiretrovirals right now: would that have some effect on the test? Is it safe to use HIV viral load tests for diagnosis?

And, I know everyone asks this, but are my chances for dodging this bullet pretty good?

Thanks for your help.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

HIV plasma viral load tests are not recommended for routine HIV screening. Plus, you are correct: since you are on antiretrovirals now, you run the additional risk of a false-negative test due to the possibility that the medications could drive the viral load to undetectable levels. I agree your risk of acquiring HIV is very low. I would recommend you follow the post-PEP testing guidelines, which recommend only anti-HIV antibody tests.

Good luck!

Dr. Bob



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