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HIV and AIDS

Can You Misdiagnose HIV For Mono?

05/21/2003

Question:

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?

Answer:

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