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Viral Load Test
Nov 15, 2007

Hi Doc,

I am taking PEP after a potential exposure. I blacked out in a foreign country and thought it would be best to take the PEP just to be on the safe side. Anyways, I am HIV negative as I just went to get the screening the other day. My question is whether I can take the HIV Viral load test after 10 days of the possible exposure to have for my own personal comfort the knowledge that I do or dont actually carry the HIV antibody. What do you think about this?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

I think you are very, very confused about HIV testing in general.

First things first:

1. Blacking out in a foreign country is not an indication for PEP. However, it may be an indication you have a problem with substance abuse.

2. I would not have recommended PEP.

3. HIV viral load tests are not recommended for routine HIV screening due to the rate of false-positive tests, other technical considerations and cost.

4. HIV viral load tests are not recommended during PEP, as the antiretroviral medications could drive the viral load level to undetectable levels resulting in a false-negative test.

As for your comment about taking a viral load test for your personal comfort and knowledge related to whether or not you "actually carry the HIV antibody," this makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. HIV viral load tests have absolutely nothing to do with anti-HIV antibody levels.

My advice:

1. Read the chapter on HIV Testing Basics that can be accessed on The Body's homepage under Quick Links.

2. Stop PEP.

3. Get a rapid HIV test at the three-month mark if you feel you've placed yourself at risk for HIV.

4. Get help for substance abuse if you are blacking out.

Good luck.

Dr. Bob



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