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Are urine tests more accurate than blood tests?

Dec 9, 1998

This new information claiming that many people have HIV and are not testing positive on blood tests (the claim being that only the urine tests are accurate) seems to shake the very foundation of HIV knowledge. I'm very concerned. The implications are severe. I've seen this a few times on different news services but it's been treated as a lesser news story. I haven't seen any information regarding this on your site at all. So, what's the deal?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Thank you for your question. The recent media reports about the urine tests have caused a lot of unnecessary panic. The following information is based on data published in the medical literature, not from media reports. Media reports are sometimes based on preliminary information, or from press releases containing unpublished (and sometimes unverified) information.

When a person is infected with HIV, the virus goes all around the body, including the blood. There is no evidence published in the medical literature thus far proving that HIV does not go into the blood in some people.

When it comes to HIV testing, both urine and blood antibody tests will detect the infection by 6 months after infection, and anytime thereafter. In some people, the blood antibody test will show positive before the urine test will. In other people, the urine antibody test will show positive before the blood test will. But ultimately, by 6 months, both tests will show positive for HIV.

What these studies do show is that HIV can "compartmentalize" in the body, that is to say, the virus can reproduce separately both in blood and also in tissues outside the blood. This can have a significant relevance, especially as it relates to antiviral treatments and vaccine development.

In summary, sometimes the blood test will show positive before the urine tests, and in other instances, just the opposite is true. But ultimately, by 6 months, both tests will detect the infection.

For more information about HIV antibody testing, please read the following posts from our website:

HIV Antibody Tests -- Now You Have Several Choices Urine HIV Antibody Tests

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

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