HIV Test Indeterminate


I'm having a bit of trouble finding a specific answer for this:

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor for a much-needed physical and blood test. I asked for the blood test to cover for everything from STDs to thyroid to whatever else. Much of my focus was on STDs as I had two sexual partners (one a boyfriend, the other someone I had known for more than five years and thus was not a stranger) in the past year. I had an obgyn appointment some time back in September or October and asked to be tested for STDs (as I always have since I became sexually active). They say "no news is good news" and I never heard anything from them.

Fast forward to today and the blood tests I requested from two weeks ago were finally given to me. The doctor tells me everything looks okay BUT the HIV test came out "indeterminate" and she wants me to come in again at three months for another test. She told me that alot of results have been coming up like that for a number of people and that because everything else tested fine that it is "very very very unlikely" that I should prove to be HIV positive. Is this true? Or could I possibly be in some early stage of infection, even though I never heard anything when I had my obgyn appointment (this was also when I was dating my boyfriend)



I have written extensively about indeterminate HIV test results in the archives and I would encourage you to review that information.

I'll also make a few comments about your specific case.

  1. Were your sexual encounters protected? If a latex condom was used properly and didn't break, your chances of acquiring HIV would be essentially nonexistent and therefore your "indeterminate" HIV test result would undoubtedly wind up being a true negative. If you did not use protection, you have placed yourself at some degree of risk for STDs, including HIV.

  2. If your doctor has had "a lot of results coming up like that (indeterminate) for a number of people" then she should be complaining to the laboratory running the tests, because this is not normal or acceptable. Yes, some people will test indeterminate for a variety of reasons non-specific cross-reacting antibodies, incomplete seroconversion, etc. however, in general these indeterminate results are far from common!

  1. I would not wait three months to resolve this issue. I would suggest you demand a repeat HIV test be performed at a different laboratory. If your ELISA test is negative, you're negative. Period. If your ELISA is repeatedly reactive (positive), then you should have a Western Blot test done on the same specimen. If the Western Blot is negative, you are HIV negative. If the Western Blot and ELISA are both positive, you'll need additional evaluation with an HIV specialist physician. If the ELISA is positive and Western Blot is indeterminate, I would recommend a qualitative HIV PCR DNA to sort out the unclear results.

Good luck. And remember, using latex condoms in the future can prevent similar episodes of worry going forward.

Good luck. Be safe. Be well.

Dr. Bob