Are There Reliable HIV or AIDS Tests?

Dear Christine,

Iíve read your book and Iím feeling confused. Are there any reliable tests that can diagnose HIV? Are there any reliable tests that can diagnose AIDS?

Thanks,

Debra H

Dear Debra,

Unfortunately, the answer to both of your questions is no.

First, there is no such thing as an AIDS test, and no appropriately informed doctor or scientist should ever claim there is. We have only tests for HIV, or actually what are thought of as HIV tests, but these tests donít detect or quantify the actual virus.

With regard to the idea of an AIDS test, itís important to note that AIDS is not a disease, but a category of diseases and conditions, and that the designation AIDS refers to a clinical diagnosis rather than a test result. Typically, AIDS is diagnosed when a person who comes up positive on a so-called HIV test (or is presumed to be HIV positive without results from any test) has one or more of the official AIDS-defining illnesses, or is not ill but has a lab test showing a T cell count at or below 200.

Interestingly, all the illnesses used to define AIDS are known to be caused by something other than HIV. In other words, all the AIDS diseases are caused by non-HIV viruses, other bacteria and fungi, or in the case of ďAIDS cancers,Ē by abnormal cell grow. All of the AIDS diseases can be found in HIV negative testing persons, some more frequently than others. For example, the majority of yeast infections and cases of herpes, tuberculosis and cervical cancer are found in people who test HIV negative even though all these conditions are on the list of AIDS-defining illnesses.

The illness most associated with AIDS, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or PCP, was identified several decades before AIDS came into existence and to this day is found among HIV negative cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, HIV negative organ transplant patients, and HIV negative people suffering from protein malnutrition.

The one AIDS-defining condition attributed directly to HIV is a laboratory test of T cells found in the peripheral (circulating) blood that numbers 200 or less. Whatís interesting about this is that only about 3% of T cells are found in the peripheral blood where tests can measure them. Itís been my experience that many people diagnosed with AIDS based on T cell lab tests are exceptionally healthy. You can also find literature at our web site that documents HIV negative persons with T cell counts below the level required to diagnose AIDS.

With regard to reliable HIV tests, the answer is still no as there are none. No HIV antibody test is actually testing for HIV-specific antibodies or any marker that is unique to HIV. HIV viral load tests, which many people assume test for the actual virus, do not. The tests detect and amplify fragments of genetic material (DNA or RNA) that are attributed to HIV but are not shown through proper isolation to be unique to HIV. A viral load is not synonymous with or indicative of a measure of whole infectious virus. In fact, viral load tests were not approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for diagnosing HIV infection but for prognostic use (predicting which people who test positive on HIV tests might ďprogress to illnessĒ). A disclaimer on the test states they are "not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or to confirm HIV infection."

I think confusion can be a natural consequence of examining information that contradicts popular ideas. I hope Iíve at least been of some help in clarifying why we should all be confused!

Christine

HIV Antibody Test Certificate of Accuracy

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References

to Questioning The Test FAQ's - What Do HIV Tests Test For?

to T Cells and Viral Load