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Treatment and Tests
Mar 16, 2000

Dear Dr Cohen,

Question :

Thank you very much for your reply to my question (Treatment) on 5th March, 2000.

Since my immune system has been heavily suppressed by 350mg Cyclosporin per day, there will be too few B cells to fight against the HIV virus and hence too few antibodies will be formed and as a result, I am tested negative on the Elisa Test though I have been infected by the HIV virus. So, should I go for the Western Bloc test which tests directly for the antigen of the HIV virus even though I am tested negative using the Elisa Test.

Thank you.

Alan

Response from Dr. Cohen

You might send your question also to the testing forum - but to clarify - the western blot also looks for antibodies. What you want is a test of the virus itself - which is these days a common test called a viral load - an amount of viral RNA. There are two major ways this is tested and both are very reliable - although there are about 1-3% of people who can have a falsely positive viral load - but only when the viral load is at a very low level is it false - if it is higher than a few thousand - this tells the picture. And early after exposure to HIV - there will be so few antibodies that anyone, even those not on cyclosporin - will not have a positive elisa nor western blot. And these people use the viral load to decide about treatment.

Hope that clarifies. Good luck.



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