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David Imagawa, MD studied window period for CDC. What results were misinterpreted by public health officials and media?
Jan 13, 1997

What are David Imagawa's research results on latency? Why are they misinterpreted by public health officials and media?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

From your question, I believe you are referring to the 1989 report of high risk Gay men taking longer than the usual 6 months to show positive on the HIV antibody test. In these studies they found several Gay men who took up to 3 years to show positive on the HIV antibody tests. All the data gathered from many sources up to today, show that this would be a very unusual (although not impossible) occurrence. The currently available antibody tests are more sensitive than the tests back in 1989, and improvements in the tests had been made over the years. It could certainly take longer than the usual 6 months to show positive on the tests, but based on all available data, this would be a very rare occurrence. Based on the latest (1996) information regarding the accuracy of the antibody tests:

The AVERAGE period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 25 days. This is an average, so not all people will test positive by this point in time.

The USUAL period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 3 months. This means that most (but not all) infected people will show positive on the test by this time.

The MAXIMUM period of time that an infected person will show positive on the test is 6 months. By this point in time, more than 99% of infected persons will show positive on the test. This is as accurate as any test in medicine could ever be.

You will notice that the tests will never be 100% accurate, and rare occurrences of people taking longer than 6 months, have occurred. Luckily they occur very rarely. David Imagawa's research report back in 1989 showed that these cases do exist. But all the latest (1996) research data show that these cases occur very rarely.

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



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