HIV antibody tests unreliable for early infections in teens.
HIV antibody tests unreliable for early infections in teens. The
most commonly used rapid HIV test often results in a false-negative
during the earliest and most contagious stages of HIV infection, known
as acute retroviral syndrome, or ARS, according to a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Because the rapid HIV screening tests are designed to detect antibodies
to the virus, not the virus itself, the tests will only pick up
infection in those who have developed antibodies, which most people do
not make until several weeks to several months after infection. To rule
out HIV in teens deemed to be at high risk for sexually transmitted
infections, Johns Hopkins HIV experts recommend the use of polymerase
chain reaction, or PCR, tests, which directly detect the virus'
genetic markers--rather than antibodies to the virus--within two to
three weeks after the virus enters the body.