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Do you think I am infected? The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

Jan 16, 1997

Rick, I had protected vaginal intercourse with a prostitute 4 months ago in SE Asia. At 4 months, post possible exposure - I tested negative for HIV via a home testing kit. And in addition, I had PCR RNA viral load test performed. The results indicated that I had no detectable HIV virus in my body, given the sensitivity of the test. In your opinion am I infected. Should I bother to get tested again a 6 months.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

If you had protected sex with this prostitute, and you used the condom correctly and it did not break, your risk of infection was small. Condoms, used consistently and correctly, significantly reduce (but do not eliminate) the risk of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's).

If you tested negative on the antibody test at 4 months, we can say that you were probably not infected from this encounter, especially in light of your low risk (because you used a condom). However, a 4 month test is not conclusive since some people can take up to 6 months to show positive on an HIV antibody test. Only a 6 month test is considered a conclusive antibody test.

A negative PCR viral load test does NOT mean that you are not infected. If the amount of the virus in the blood is very low, the test may not be able to pick up the infection. This is why viral load tests cannot be used to diagnose HIV infection. Viral load tests were not designed for the diagnosis of HIV, and should not be used for this purpose!

So to determine if you were infected or not, you may wish to re-take the antibody test again at 6 months for the most conclusive and accurate test result.

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

PCR testing The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions
negative p-24 and antibody test The Body: Rick Sowadsky M.S.P.H., C.D.S, Answers to Safe Sex Questions

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