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Are ELISA Test Different in NYC???

Aug 30, 2009

Dr Bob

I live in NYC and recently had a high risk exposure. The NYC Dept of Health as well as the GMHC hotline people are telling me that a 4 week negative anti body tests is over 95% accurate. Is that possible?? Everything I have read says to wait 3 months. I also have a friend in Boston and he says the Mass Dept of Health tells everyone that a 6 week test is conclusive. Are they using different tests than other parts of the country?

Response from Dr. Frascino


Yes, different generations of the HIV-antibody test are in use in various locations. I am aware of the different recommendations from the various health departments and testing centers. It is true the vast majority of folks infected with HIV will have detectable levels of anti-HIV antibodies in their blood within four to six weeks after primary infection. If indeed a four-week test was 95% accurate (please note I cannot verify this statistic), that would still mean the test missed 5 out of every 100 cases. That's not accurate enough when dealing with a condition like HIV where missing a diagnosis can have disastrous consequences. The published guidelines continue to recommend waiting until the three-month mark for a definitive result. HIV-antibody tests are getting better and eventually we may be able to shorten the testing window. However, we're not there quite yet. In fact the CDC recommends that those folks who have had a significant exposure to HIV get tested at both the three- and six-month marks! You can read much more about HIV diagnostic testing in the archives of this forum. Have a look.

Good luck!

Dr. Bob

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