Question

Hello Dr. Bob,

I was asked a question yesterday that I am unable to answer or find the answer to. Is there a standard practice, when performing autopsies, that would identify if the person had been HIV positive?

I searched "autopsy" on the site and did not find any answers, nor was I successful finding answers after googling the topic.

Thanks again for all you do! You're my idol ;-)

Preventioneer

Answer

Hello Preventioneer,

Autopsies are performed to determine the cause of death and detail the physical findings of the corpse. If someone died of an HIV/AIDS-related condition, it most likely would be evident. However, routine HIV tests are not performed on cadavers (for a variety of reasons). So, if an asymptotic HIV-positive person is zapped dead by an errant lightening bolt, the autopsy would indicate he died as as result of electrocution and would not mention HIV status.

Me an idol? Really? (I can only assume Ellen DeGeneres must have voted for me.)

Dr. Bob