HIV-Positive Test Results
HIV-Positive Test Results
Charles Farthing (Chief of Medicine, AIDS Healthcare Foundation) gives expert video advice on: What does it mean to be HIV positive?; Is a positive HIV test result a 'death sentence'? and more...
What does it mean to be HIV positive?
To be HIV positive means that you've got HIV antibodies in your blood, and if you're got HIV antibodies in your blood it means you've got HIV virus in your blood. It means you're infected with HIV. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're sick. A very few patients—1% of patients, perhaps—are HIV infected yet have an undetectable viral load all on their own. But the majority of people don't handle this virus very well, and will slowly get sick over the years and develop AIDS if not treated.
How do false-positive results happen in an HIV test?
False-positive results are possible in an HIV test. In medicine, in any antibody test, there may be a similar protein that you've been exposed to that may look like an HIV antibody; it isn't an HIV antibody, but it may trigger the test as positive. So that's why the ELISA test has a small rate of false-positive results. The more expensive Western Blot antibody test looks at multiple antibodies to different components of the virus. If you have multiple antibodies to HIV, then one can be sure that you are infected.
Is a positive HIV test result a 'death sentence'?
A positive HIV antibody result, is definitely not a death sentence. In this day and age, HIV is one of most treatable conditions we have. I would much rather have HIV infection than diabetes. Because I can completely shut down HIV, turn it off, and it shouldn't effect my health going forward, significantly. However, if I have diabetes, I can control my blood sugar, but I'll never be able to control it perfectly, and I'll never be able to stop the complications of diabetes as I get older. With HIV, I can. HIV is not a death sentence, unless people let it be, and ignore it, and don't take the treatment. Then it can be a death sentence.
What is the best advice for a person who is diagnosed as HIV positive?
The best advice I could give to someone who is HIV-positive is to have a positive attitude you're going to do well. See your doctor. Get on treatment if you need it, take it regularly. Learn everything you can about HIV disease. Understand the disease. Understand your HIV treatment. Then, forget about being HIV positive. Lead a completely normal life, because you are a normal person, with an HIV virus that's fully suppressed. Don't forget to take your HIV pills every day. Don't forget to see your HIV doctor four times a year. But don't let HIV dominate your life, because you're a normal individual.