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Jun 25, 2001


Excuse my ignorance, I recently read that orasure test for HIV antibodies in saliva. I know that HIV CAN NOT be transmitted by saliva, so what's the difference between HIV and HIV antibodies? thank you

Response from Mr. Kull

Orasure--HIV antibody testing that uses a swab to collect fluid from your mouth--does not test for antibodies in saliva, but for antibodies in a fluid in your mouth called oral mucosal transudate. Because antibodies are present in oral fluid does not mean that enough HIV is present to cause infection. See my response to "Testing Saliva" ( for information about Orasure testing.

It is important to pay close attention to the language used when talking about HIV transmission and prevention. For instance, there is a big difference between "HIV cannot be transmitted through contact with saliva" and "HIV is not transmitted through contact with saliva." HIV can be isolated in the saliva of some infected people, but in small amounts. Inhibiting factors in saliva may also render HIV inactive. Since HIV may be present in saliva, it is always possible that HIV could be transmitted through contact with saliva (that's when we say transmission is THEROETICALLY possible). However, when we look at the statistics, there is no evidence that HIV has ever been transmitted through contact with saliva. This is strong evidence that HIV IS NOT transmitted through saliva in the real world.


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