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Can You Misdiagnose HIV For Mono?



I know that someone asked this question before, but I wasn`t sure about what the answer was. Is it possible to be diagnosed with mono through a blood test (for symptoms of fatigue) and really have HIV?


Yes, it is possible, but not very likely. The early symptoms of mononucleosis and HIV infection are very similar. People will often have a sore throat, swollen glands, fever and fatigue and occasionally a rash within a few weeks of being infected with either of these viruses. Tests for HIV are often negative during this early period as it sometimes takes 2 or 3 months for the test to become positive, but the test for mononucleosis (called a monospot test) will usually be positive if one has the virus causing mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus). However the monospot test is not perfect and it is possible to have a false-positive test result, in other words mono is not present and there is likely some other cause for the illness. This happens a few percent of the time. EBV is spread through saliva, and HIV through sexual exposure, as well as through needle sharing. Therefore both could be transmitted during a sexual encounter. If there is concern about HIV then a test should be done, and repeated 3 months after the encounter if the initial test is negative or inconclusive.

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Response by:

Peter Grubbs, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati