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Please help me, I am lost here...
Jul 29, 2009

Hello Doctor,

I hope you will be kind enough to answer my question.

I am a foreign student here in the US and currently i live out of my usual town. practically i have no access to any doctor... i have no one to talk to! by the way i called CDC several time but they really disappointed me. they couldnt give me any additional information, just by looking @google you can get more information...

I had unprotected sex with a female and now im freaked out. it has been only a few days ago. I am thinking of having a test before 3 months so i can relax a bit even if its not 100% accurate. I thought of doing p24 antigen but the impression i get is that no one does it... so i was thinking of doing DNA PCR... i am not sure about it. I called one place and they told me its very reliable and you can do it 3 days after incident... it did not sound right, i dont believe them... what is the minimum period i have to wait before doing DNA PCR? do you recommend this check? I just need some 'semi-assurance' until i do the antibody test. if i have to wait 4 weeks for DNA PCR, wouldnt it make sense to do a antibody test instead? (not 100% at this stage but good indicator)

Thank you, I will make a donation to your organization

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Foreign Student,

Unprotected sex does place you at some degree of risk for STDs, including HIV. The most reliable test for HIV screening is an HIV-antibody test taken outside the window period (defined as the first three months following exposure). HIV-antibody tests taken prior to the three-month mark are not considered to be conclusive or definitive. It is true that most HIV-infected folks will have detectable levels of anti-HIV antibodies in their blood within four to six weeks following HIV primary infection. Consequently a negative test beyond four to six weeks is very encouraging. However, for a definitive test you'll need to wait a full three months. HIV PCR testing is generally not recommended for routine HIV screening due to the rate of false positives, other technical considerations and cost. Consequently there is no "minimum period" for this type of testing. Sorry to hear the CDC was so unhelpful! Peruse the wealth of information on this site, in its archives and on its related links. We have whole chapters devoted to HIV sexual transmission, HIV testing and related issues. It should provide you with information and reassurance.

My advice is simple:

1. Get an HIV-antibody test at the three-month mark.

2. Do not ever put yourself at risk again! Use latex or polyurethane condoms for all penetrative sexual encounters!

3. Try not to worry excessively. The odds are all in your favor that you did not contract HIV from this one-time indiscretion.

Thank you for your donation to the Robert James Frascino AIDS Foundation (www.concertedeffort.org). It's warmly appreciated! In return I'm sending you my good-luck/good-health karma that your definitive three-month HIVantibody test is negative!

By the way, if you are presently residing in the U.S., why don't you have access to physicians? (Although I don't think you need one at this point for this problem.)

Good luck. Be well!

Dr. Bob



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