AFTER READING A LOT OF CORRESP0NDENCE REGARDING PCR TESTING AS BEING THE UTMOST TESTING PROCEDURE, I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW WHY HOSPITALS AND BLOOD BANKS ONLY TEST FOR ANTIBODIES. THE REASON I ASK, IS BECAUSE I HAVE DONATED IN THE PAST BUT, NOW I WONDER IF IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE INFECTED BUT NOT HAVE A DETECTABLE LEVEL WITH CURRENT HIV I/II ANTIBODY TESTS. THEREFORE, A PERSON COULD UNKNOWINGLY INFECT SOMEONE ELSE. HOW OFTEN DOES THIS HAPPEN? THIS HAS BEEN BOTHERING ME FOR QUITE SOME TIME. I AM NOT IN A HIGH RISK CATAGORY WHICH WOULD HAVE EXCLUDED ME FROM DONATING, BUT I HAVE HAD HETEROSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS IN THE PAST.
HIV P24 antigen testing is now incorporated into routine blood bank screening. P24 antigen is present in the blood transiently (days to a couple of weeks after HIV infection). It is thought by using p24 antigen and HIV 1/2 antibody testing together, that essentially all cases of HIV infection would be caught in the blood supply. These tests are relatively inexpensive when compared to viral load tests. Although cost should not be an issue, if a $150-200 viral load test is added to the processing price of each unit of blood, it gets very expensive for little return in the grand scheme of things. MH