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HIV and AIDS

Can HIV Virus Be Detected By Other Tests?

01/18/2001

Question:

Is there a chance that the HIV virus can be accidentally detected when a patient gets tested for something different, such as diabetes, hormone levels, blood components, allergies, etc.?

Answer:

HIV testing is done by 2 different types of tests. The first one is called a "screening" test. The scientific name for this test is an ELISA. This test is purposefully set to detect as many people as possible. If this test is positive, the lab usually repeats it on the same sample. If the second test is positive then they do a confirmatory test. This is scientifically called a western blot or immunofluoresence assay.

These tests are meant to be very specific for HIV. Both tests (screening and confirmatory) should be positive before a result is called positive for HIV. There is a small chance that one or either of these tests will be falsely positive. That is, the test is positive but the person really does not have HIV. Some diseases or vaccinations (Influenza shots) can occasionally turn the test positive but then on repeat it becomes negative. I had a patient that received immunoglobulins and had a positive test that ultimately turned out negative once retested. The best advice is for anyone with a positive test to go see a doctor qualified to test and counsel them on HIV and be retested to confirm the results.

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Response by:

Carl   Fichtenbaum, MD Carl Fichtenbaum, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati