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HIV Test Indeterminate

Oct 14, 2008

Dr. Bob, I haven't had sex in at least 6 months. It's hard to say the last time exactly, but it was either in February or March with who is now my ex. I went to have my thyroid tested, and while I was there I had a test done for HIV on Oct. 2nd, just because I had never had it done before and I wanted a "clean bill of health" and it came back indeterminate. Whether it were Feb or March, at least 6 months has passed I'm just not sure how far past 6 months. I'm going back tomorrow to be retested, and I got sort of freaked out so I bought that home Express Hiv-1 Test System at Walgreens, which I have yet to use, but plan to tomorrow after I see my doctor. I've read about indeterminate results, but still can't seem to grasp how common it is. I consider myself fairly safe or at least fairly healthy (no drugs, no multiple partners or anything else), but even though I had the same partner for 6 years, we didn't use protection because I was on the pill. And I don't know whether he's been tested or not, or how faithful he was while we were together for that matter, which seems to be the only risk factor. How concerned should I be?

Response from Dr. Frascino


I would advise not being concerned about an "indeterminate" HIV test result if you've had absolutely no potential risk exposures over the past six months. The concern would be that an indeterminate test suggests the possibility that someone is in the process of seroconversion. This concern would not apply to your situation, as your last potential exposure was six moths ago. Consequently, you would have already seroconverted if you contracted the virus at that time. Most likely, your indeterminate result is the result of cross-reacting nonspecific antibodies. You can read about the various causes of indeterminate tests in the archives of this forum. Indeterminate HIV test results account for 4% to 20% of Western Blot assays in various studies. In other words, it is not uncommon. I'm confident appropriate follow-up tests will confirm your HIV-negative status.

Dr. Bob

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