Is the HIV DNA PCR test reliable?

I had a recent exposure on Jan 6th and I heard the DNA PCR will be able to provide conclusive results on HIV after 28 days.

However, I read contradictory statements on the internet that it is not a reliable method and there are more false positives and even HIV positive people are not caught with this test. Is that so? Please let me know how accurate it will be right after 28 days from the day of exposure.


It is true there are many misconceptions regarding this test and other tests for HIV that are different from the traditional HIV antibody test.

Let’s say for the last 20 years, the most common way to save your life during a car accident, and the only device that consumers were familiar with was called a seat belt. More recently developed is a more advanced technology known as an airbag. As you can imagine, it took sometime for this new technology to be accepted and understood, as it has for the DNA PCR. Admittedly, there are many misconceptions about this test, as well as other HIV tests, as well as the subject of HIV and AIDS as a whole, for that matter.

You asked if the HIV DNA PCR has a higher rate of false positives. The misconception regarding false positives stems from the DNA PCR not being offered with an automatic reflex to a confirmatory test. If it was detected, another test had to be performed to confirm the presence of HIV. The same argument could be made about the HIV ELISA, if only the ELISA did not automatically reflex to a confirmatory test called the Western Blot.

The PCR (polymerase chain reaction) is a noble prize winning technology, and it is the best option available when someone is concerned about recent HIV exposure. It is used for health care workers after a needle stick. Originally it was developed to test infants born to HIV positive mothers, because a positive antibody test, in this case, was not a reliable marker of infection.

You also said that you heard that even people that are HIV positive are not caught on this test. There is not much to say about that other than it is simply not true. I am not sure where or why that would be said. The DNA PCR is the absolute most sensitive test for HIV. In terms of measurement capacity, it can detect as little as 10 copies of proviral DNA per milliliter of whole blood. Even the most sensitive HIV RNA PCR test can only detect 40-50 copies per ml.

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