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Hiv-2 testing in the United States
Feb 8, 1999

Hi Doctor, Screening of the blood supply for Hiv-2 became mandatory in 1992. Why then is it not offered by local health departments in conjunction with Hiv-1 testing? I mean if a person gets tested with a negative result for Hiv-1, isn't there a risk that they may have Hiv-2 unknowingly infect others they have contact with? I think that if it is important enough to screen the blood supply it must be important enough to screen the individuals who believe they may be at risk for HIV infection in general. Any updated information on the prevalence of HIV-2 infection in the U.S. would also be appreciated.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. HIV-2 is primarily found in Western Africa. It is extremely rare in North America. For example, compared to the literally hundreds of thousands of HIV-1 cases reported in the United States, there have only been 77 cases of HIV-2 reported (as of 31 December, 1997). Most of these 77 cases were in West Africans, or people who had sex or shared needles with a West African.

When it comes to the blood supply, even though the risk of HIV-2 is very low in the United States, they test the blood for this rare virus anyway. This is because, when it comes to the safety of the blood supply, they do not want to take even a small chance that someone will get infected when receiving blood. In addition, there is the issue of legal liability and lawsuits, should a person become infected through receiving a blood transfusion. So although the realistic risk of infection for HIV-2 outside of West Africa is low, the blood supply takes no chances.

Generally speaking, unless a person is West African, or unless a person has had sex or shared needles with a West African, there is usually no need for routine testing for HIV-2.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to e-mail me at "nvhotline@aol.com" or call me at (Nationwide). I'm glad to help!



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