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false positives

May 30, 1997

Like any other parents, we have gone through hell since last fall when we were told that our pregnant daughter's husband had just found out he was HIV positive. We were recently told that he had another test and that it shows that he isn't HIV positive. What's going on? Is this common? How could such a mistake have been made? Of course we are overwhelmingly thankful and relieved, but we're a little resentful at what we have had to go through. Thank you.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. Without knowing what specific tests were done on your daughters' husband, I cannot comment whether he is actually HIV positive or not. This is because I have seen on numerous occasions, tests being used improperly to diagnose HIV infection. For example, tests like viral load counts and CD4 counts should not be used to diagnose HIV infection. Also some tests like PCR tests and p-24 antigen tests will not always pick up an infection. Therefore, without more information on which tests you are talking about, I cannot comment on whether your daughters' husband is HIV positive or not, or whether there was even a false positive result. False positive results on tests like antibody tests are extremely rare. If you have further information on which tests were performed, please e-mail me so I can give you a more precise answer.

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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