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NAT Testing

Apr 26, 2008


I had a possible exposure to HIV on or around March 19. I made a major mistake by having unprotected sex with a stranger. He later told me he was HIV positive and has since changed his cell phone number, so I was unable to confirm if he was indeed positive nor was I able to get further information about viral load etc.

I waited until April 3rd to get tested. I live in Los Angeles and was fortunate enough to receive free NAT testing. Additionally, I was screened for all STDs. Everything came back negative. The counselor said that I am 100% negative as of March 13 (before the possible exposure) and assured me that I should feel confident about my negative result being conclusive. My question is how good should I feel about the 15 days I waited before getting the NAT test? Do you have any statistics around how long it takes for the virus to present itself?



Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Eric,

The current testing guidelines still recommend HIV-antibody testing at the three-month mark. Other more sensitive tests are being developed and coming online; however, the formal guidelines have not yet been revised, as we are still gaining information about the sensitivity and specificity of the newer tests. NAT allows us to detect very small amounts of genetic material (DNA or RNA) via a process called amplification, which involves massive copying. In laboratory studies NAT testing reduced the time to viral detection to 12 days. So is your 15-day negative NAT WOO-HOOable? Honestly I don't know. There has not been enough published research for me to make that a definitive statement. I'd still recommend the 3 month antibody test.

Dr. Bob

What are the risks ?
Thanks again Dr Frascino

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