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First Generation Elisa Sensitivity

Dec 9, 2010

Hi, Dr Bob. I love reading your responses and I adore your upbeat attitude.

My first husband was diagnosed with Aids in 1986. I was tested three and 1/2 months past last possible exposure and was negative (elisa). I didnt retest even though I was told I should at six months to be sure. I just kinda buried my head in the sand and told myself I could live with 99.95% (the figure they gave me for accuracy)

Now, 25 years later, my second husband of 22 years is having testing for pheriperal neuropathy. Upon doing my own research, I see HIV as one of the underlying disease causes.

This is causing me so much distress and...well panic attacks actually.

So, my questions are as follows: 1. How reliable was a 1986 1st generation elisa at almost 4 months?

2. What are my chances that I went almost 25 years without symptoms if I did turn out to be infected in 1986 or before?

3. I keep reading PN seems to be an advanced symptom of HIV. My husband seems healthy otherwise.

4. I keep reading of female to male transmission being harder to transmit. I PRAY that this would be the case if for some reason I did have this "viral enhancement" for all of these years. I insisted on condom usage with him, but he sometimes did not abide by it...(he wanted to act like 99.95 percent was 100% as well)

This is killing me. Something I thought I could put behind me forever is suddenly back with a vengeance.

I thank you so much for your time.

Response from Dr. Frascino


1. The first generation ELISA tests were quite accurate. However, the generation of the test has nothing to do with the recommendation to test out to six months following a significant HIV exposure. (That recommendation is the same no matter what generation test is used.)

2. Essentially nil.

3. You didn't ask a question here. (I don't believe your husband's symptoms have anything to do with HIV.)

4. And again you did not ask a question!

You report: "I just kinda buried my head in the sand and told myself I could live with 99.95%." However, now 25 years later you report: "This is killing me. Something I thought I could put behind me forever is suddenly back with a vengeance."

Your fears are unwarranted. However, I did want to point out that if you had followed the recommendations to retest at six months, you really would have put this nagging fear permanently to rest 25 years ago! If your fears persist, get a rapid test. You'll have a definitive answer in as few as 20 minutes. The results will undoubtedly be negative.

Be well. Stop worrying. Happy Holidays.

Dr. Bob

false negative test result
Dr Bob, what's really going?

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