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Urgent inquiry about HIV transmission

Dec 16, 1996

A fellow public health student has recently learned that her former boyfriend has tested + for HIV. She will be tested tomorrow, expects results in 10-14 days. While she waits for results, is there any HOPEFUL (yet realistic) info I can give her? Their last contact was approx. 6 months ago. Prior, they had unprotected sex 2-4 times weekly for approx. 1 year. Any prompt replies will be sincerely appreciated. Thanks, -Dan

Response from Mr. Sowadsky


Thank you for your question. There is no way to know whether she is positive herself or not until she gets her test results. A person can have unprotected sex with an infected person one time and get infected. Likewise, a person can have unprotected sex 100 times and still not get infected. But the more times a person is exposed, the greater the chance that infection will take place.

Since her last contact was 6 months ago, her test now should give an accurate test result. The tests are more than 99% accurate at 6 months. So this test now should tell her whether she was infected or not.

At this time, just be supportive and understanding of her situation. Don't give her a false sense of hope by saying things like, "oh, I'm sure you're not infected". I've seen people do this, and then their friend ended up coming up positive. So just be realistic with her, and supportive. But all we can say is that there's a chance that she's infected, but there's still a chance that she may not be infected. Also feel free to give her our e-mail address and phone number, should she wish to speak to my staff or myself. It's important to be hopeful, but you must be realistic too.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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