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A new study shows that offering more sensitive HIV RNA tests to people seeking HIV antibody testing can detect early cases of HIV infection that are missed by standard antibody screenings. Reporting in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, researchers say they offered both types of tests to clients at the San Francisco City Clinic and to men seeking tests at three sexually transmitted disease clinics in Los Angeles. Of the 3,075 people screened at the San Francisco clinic, 105 tested positive for HIV antibodies. But adding the HIV RNA test uncovered another 11 cases of acute infection--a period immediately following exposure to the virus during which infection has taken hold but HIV antibodies can't yet be detected. In Los Angeles, 1,712 people were tested: 14 tested positive for HIV antibodies, and an additional infection was identified through RNA testing.
"In our study, the addition of HIV RNA screening to routine HIV antibody testing in STD clinics identified a substantial increased proportion of HIV-infected persons at high risk for further transmission, who would have been missed by routine HIV counseling and testing protocols," the researchers wrote. "Further evaluation of the addition of HIV RNA screening to routine HIV antibody testing is warranted." (The Advocate)