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HIV Antibodies and other antibodies
Nov 18, 1996

I have been told that when someone has antibodies to a virus, he is protected or immune against that specific virus. And that normally vaccines work in this way, provoking an antibody reaction in the blood. However, this does not seem to be the case for HIV. If someone has antibodies for HIV, it means that he is *infected* instead of *immune*, right? Why is this? Thanks

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

When a person produces antibodies against a given infection, sometimes those antibodies are successful at getting rid of an infection, and sometimes not. Certain antibodies work well against some diseases (such as Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B, and other diseases for which we have vaccines). However, for other diseases, like HIV and others, the body produces antibodies in an attempt to destroy the infection, but those antibodies are not successful at eliminating the infection. The immune system consists of many components, which includes antibodies. We do know that the immune system can keep an HIV infection under control for many years. However, ultimately, after years of constantly fighting off HIV, the immune system starts losing the battle against the virus.

Your immune system can successfully fight off some diseases, and not others. Although your body produces antibodies against HIV, those antibodies are simply unsuccessful at getting rid of the virus. But other antibodies are successful at getting rid of the germs they fight off. In other words, sometimes antibodies work against some diseases, but not others. Unfortunately, our immune system can't win all the battles it fights. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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