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testing negative but being positive

Sep 4, 1997

rick i just got back negative results for HIV-1 antibodies today. it's been a year since my most worrisome exposure, but 3 months ago i touched a dry vagina with moistened fingers for about ten seconds with no insertion. (at the time i was fully clothed, had not touched my fingers to my tongue (i spit) and had absolutely no cuts or abrasions on my hand. 1. what is the risk the antibody has not yet produced in enough volume to be detected in 3 months? 2. on your web site, you link to a michigan site that says in rare cases that an infected person will not develop antibodies to the disease. could you comment? thanks, and please no email response. your site is a godsend.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. The issues of the risks of fingering a woman, and the accuracy of HIV testing have been addressed many times before, and I will not go into that here. More information on these issues can be found in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of this website.

Regarding your question about "rare cases that an infected person will not develop antibodies to the disease."

I am only familiar with one report in which a person never produced antibodies against HIV, despite the fact that they were infected. This case was so unusual, that it was published in the medical literature (MMWR, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 8, 1996, Vol. 45, No. 9 "Persistent Lack of Detectable HIV-1 Antibody In a Person With HIV Infection --- Utah, 1995"). The chances that you would be one of these extremely rare individuals who do not produce antibodies by 6 months after infection, is extremely unlikely.

When we are talking about any aspect of any disease in medicine, whether it is AIDS, Cancer, Heart Disease, etc., if you look hard enough, you will always find rare exceptions to everything. This is because medicine is not an absolute science. Nothing in medicine is absolute or 100%. Medicine is a very complex science. People often try to find simple answers to complex questions (like symptom, testing, transmission and treatment questions). When we give health information on any disease, to keep things as understandable as possible, we try to answer what is found in the majority of cases. We cannot answer what would be found in every single case. That would make things extremely confusing for people. Much of what appears to be conflicting information, merely indicates the wide variability you will find in any aspect of any disease in medicine. If you look hard enough, you will find exceptions to everything in medicine, regardless of what disease you are talking about.

If you want simple and absolute answers to anything in medicine, you will not find it. If you look hard enough, you will find exceptions to everything in medicine.

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

HIV-2 found by HIV-1 testing
CBC and tests for aids

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