HIV Antibodies

Last updated: Thursday, 25, October, 2007
Item Process
Specimen

10 mL blood in plain tube. Informed consent must be obtained from the patient prior to ordering the test.

Method

Immunoassay for detection of both HIV-1 and HIV-2 antibodies. Specialised laboratories confirm positive immunoassay results by immunoblot methods.

Reference Interval

Positive is significant, if confirmed by immunoblotting.

Application

Diagnosis is of HIV infection. Screening of blood, tissue or organ donors. Following exposure, the seronegative "widow" period may be from 3 weeks to several months. Occasional subtypes of HIV may be undetectable by some EIA methods.

Interpretation

Positive indicates HIV infection and must be confirmed by immunoblot and by testing on a seperate sample. False positives are rare, and can be further assessed by immunoblot, tests for HIV antigen or, preferably, HIV-1 RNA and repeat HIV antibody testing; see HIV AntigenHIV-1 RNA. In terminal disease, HIV antibodies may be negative. HIV-1 is common worlwide; HIV-2 is less common and is largely confined to Africa.

Patients where there is a high clinical suspicion and are negative for HIV antibody should undergo P24 antigen testing or Proviral DNA assay.

Reference

Schleupner CJ. In Mandell GL et al eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 4th ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995.

Gaines H et al. Lancet 1987; 1:1249-1253.