Clinical Observation |

Report of a False-Positive HIV Test Result and the Potential Use of Additional Tests in Establishing HIV Serostatus

Eleftherios Mylonakis, MD; Maria Paliou, MD; Thomas C. Greenbough, MD; Timothy P. Flaningan, MD; Norman L. Letvin, MD; Josiah D. Rich, MD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(15):2386-2388. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.15.2386.
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Considering the lifelong implications of a positive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) test result, physicians should be aware of the limitations of tests for HIV. A 43-year-old man had a reactive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and an indeterminate result on Western blot analysis. The results of subsequent enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and Western blot tests were interpreted as positive, and the patient was informed that he had HIV infection. Persistently undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA, combined with normal physical examination findings, CD4+ cell count, and CD4/CD8 ratio, prompted further testing, which revealed that the patient was not infected with HIV. False-positive HIV test results are uncommon, but they can occur. In the appropriate clinical setting, follow-up and the use of other laboratory tests, such as determination of plasma viral load, may help identify such cases.

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