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False positive rapid HIV test
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False positive rapid HIV test

So today I had a rapid HIV (blood from finger stick) test done at planned parenthood. The test came back reactive. I just have no idea how I could have contracted the virus. I had a rapid test 8 months ago and it was negative. Over the last few months I have not done anything that would be considered risky behavior. I had only had sex with 2 girls. With 1 girl 4 times throughout one night. I used a condom every time and they never broke. Before we had sex I think there was some contact between my penis and her vagina, but never any unprotected penetration. She also performed oral sex on me, which was unprotected.
The second girl I had sex with 2 times one night, and 5 times a few days later. Every time I used a condom and they did not break. We did not have oral sex at all.
I have never used IV drugs, never had anal sex, and never had unprotected sex. So it is a bit of a shock that it came back reactive. Is it possible that over the last few months my body has made some antibody that could cause a reactive test, and thus a false positive? I found a list online of 79 different things that can cause. The article was titled
WHOSE ANTIBODIES ARE THEY ANYWAY?
Factors Known to Cause False Positive HIV Antibody Test Results
By Christine Johnson
Continuum Sept./Oct. 1996
Lastly I should say that I have been living in Russia for the last 8 months. I needed to take the test to receive a visa. I took this second test for the same reason. I haven't had any symptoms or behavior that would prompt me to take the test. It was just for my visa application. Is it possible that I just came into contact with something that my body made an antibody for that just happens to be similar enough to cause a reactive test? Are there any other risk factors that I may be over looking? They did a blood draw to do another test. The results should be back next week, I am just trying to figure out how all of this is even possible.
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239123_tn?1267651214
Welcome to the forum.  I'm happy to help.

In view of the low risk sexual lifestyle you describe, this is probably a false positive test result -- which you seem to realize, according to the title of your question.  The rapid HIV tests are prone to give false positive results.  It's not all that frequent, but it happens much more often than with the lab based tests.  (This is one reason why rapid tests are not recommended except when a result is needed urgently. We recommend the lab-based tests in most circumstances.)

So I expect the follow-up test will be negative.  If so, it is harmless; these things happen from time to time and don't mean anything important.  Please return with a follow-up comment to let me know the result of the additional test.  In the meantime, stay as relaxed as you can.  Probably it is false and you don't have HIV.

Regards--  HHH, MD
8 Comments
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Avatar_m_tn
Thanks for the quick reply. That definitely makes me feel better. I will let you know when I get the results of the western blot.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hello Dr. Handsfield,
So today planned parenthood called me and told me to come in. I was expecting results, but they told me that the lab said that my test was compromised, and that they needed to do another blood draw that they would send it to a different lab. I have a couple of questions about this.

1) do they ever just tell people that to get another blood draw to run another test and double check the results? Is that even legal?

2) What causes a test to be compromised? Is it possible that some medication I am taking would compromise the test and/or cause a false positive? Here is my list of meds and vitamins I take
In the morning right after I wake up
80mg Strattera for ADHD
300mg Wellbutruin (bupropion) XL for anxiety and ADHD
5mg Lisinopril for blood pressure
10mg zertek for allergies
Vitamins
multi vitamin
360mg fish oil
super b complex
2000 i.u. vitamin D3
200 mg CoQ10

At night before bed
1000mg calcium citrate
400mg magnesium
1.5 mg lunesta

3) Is it possible that I have antibodies that are not for HIV that could cause a false positive. I have spent a significant amount of time in Mexico (not recently though) and I have lived in Moscow for the past 7.5 month. I used the metro there on a daily basis (which has about 9 million people a day on it) and I don't really wash my hands all that often. I never get sick though, so I think that my immune system is pretty good and is able to fight off what ever it encounters. I also lived in a fraternity for 4 years where I was in very close contact with others, and in Moscow I lived in a dormitory. Is it possible that my body has just developed a whole lot of different anti bodies given that places I have lived and variety of germs my immune system has encounter and made antibodies for could cause a false positive or compromised test?

4) Lastly, I read that it is possible to get HIV through breast milk. Neither of the girls I was with had an infant (one did have a 7 year old daughter) would it be possible to get HIV from sucking on their breasts if any milk did come out?
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239123_tn?1267651214
Sorry this isn't sorting itself out more quickly. Still, I don't see cause for serious worry.

1) I doubt they told you anything but the truth or that there is any hidden meaning, but I can't read minds and won't speculate further.

2) I also don't know what it means for a test to be "compromised".  No medications alter the reliability of HIV test results or, as far as I know, the testing procedures.

3) Antibodies to other (unknown) viruses are one potential explanation of some false positive HIV test results.  That theory has been around since the very earliest days of HIV testing, but I can't say more; I don't know what research has been done, if any, has been done on this topic.  There is no reason to suppose that your dormitory experiences in Moscow or anywhere else have anything to do with it.

4) Breast milk has never been known to transmit HIV in a sexual situation.  Infants nursed by infected mothers can become infected, but even that happens to only about 15% of babies and after an average of 6-8 months, during which time they swallow several ounces of milk every day.

I can't guarantee you won't turn out to have HIV someday.  But I doubt that's the current problem with your blood tests; and even if you have HIV, I would definitely not attribute it to a little oral contact with breast fluid.
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Avatar_m_tn
I think that they meant there was a mistake made with the test. Someone screwed up something. Apparently there have been some problems with this lab recently. Since my first rapid test was reactive, is it likely that a second one would be too (assuming the first was a false positive) Are false positives caused by something in the blood of the person taking the test or is just a problem with that specific test?
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239123_tn?1267651214
Try to stop speculating.  You'll know the final test results soon enough; speculating in the interim doesn't help.  And the causes of false positive results simply are not known.

If you would like to post your FINAL test results, when available, feel free to do that.  But nothing more until then, i.e. no speculation and no interim results awaiting confirmation.
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Avatar_m_tn
Finally got the results. They were NEGATIVE! The first test was a false positive!
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239123_tn?1267651214
That's what I expected. Congratulations!
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