Early Detection of HIV Infection Improved by Using Combination of Tests, Study Shows
A combination of tests is able to diagnose "acute," or early stage, HIV infection in more than 12% of patients with symptoms consistent with primary HIV infection, according to a study of 400 patients referred for HIV testing that is published in the current issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters Health reports. Researchers tested for both HIV antibodies and the virus itself. However, the tests used to detect the virus were "imperfect" -- the first, which "zoomed in on HIV genetic material," generated "many" false-positive results, and the other, which looked for the p24 antigen, returned many false-negatives. With symptoms of early HIV infection often mistaken for the flu, researchers could find no outward symptoms "specific enough" to signify infection. Dr. Eric Daar of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles said that adding the p24 test to standard antibody screening of all possible HIV cases would "undoubtedly" catch more HIV cases in the early stage. An editorial by Drs. Timothy Flanigan and Karen Tashima of Brown University that accompanies the report "advocate[s]" the routine use of the p24 test, but the editorial also states that cost may be a prohibitive factor, with testing for 500 people estimated to run $37,500 (Norton, Reuters Health, 1/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.