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Window Period and Auto-Immune Disorders

Feb 4, 2009

Dr. Bob, My question is in regards to HIV test results and Auto-Immune disorders. I realize that you have answered questions on this before but I am trying to find an answer that can be utilized where I work (I work on an HIV/STD hotline).

That being said my questions are as follows:

1. Does having certain auto-immune disorders mean that it can take longer for your body to produce anti-bodies that can be detected by an HIV Rapid Test.

2. Is it true that having an auto-immune disorder increases the chances of a false positive.

Thank You, Richard

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi Richard,

I'm glad to help.

1. No. Autoimmune diseases do not affect the rate at which someone produces anti-HIV antibodies. (Remember an autoimmune disease arises from an overactive immune response which includes antibody production directed against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words the body immunologically attacks itself.)

2. This is an all-too-frequent worry for something that occurs extremely, extremely rarely. There is a single case reported in the medical literature from 1993 that described a false-positive HIV-antibody test attributed to autoantibodies in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus and end-stage renal disease. This caused quite a stir and much unnecessary panic. Interestingly, a subsequent report on this same patient indicated that the patient was indeed HIV infected as verified by positive HIV cultures. Another autoimmune patient was found to have two positive ELISAs and two indeterminate Western Blots. This patient was not HIV infected as confirmed by HIV culture and PCR. The bottom line is that folks with autoimmune disorders should not worry about false-negative or false-positive HIV-antibody test results.

Keep up the good work Richard!

Dr. Bob

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