Any misdiagnosed disease or condition can be deadly because the conditions are left untreated or receive the wrong treatment. For people who are given a false-negative diagnosis for HIV, the results can be catastrophic: not only might they fail to get the treatments they need, but they could unknowingly and unwillingly infect others with the virus.
But what about those are who are told they are HIV positive, and the diagnosis is incorrect? A false-positive diagnosis of HIV can be equally devastating for a number of reasons:
1. Increased risk of contracting the virus through sex. As awareness and acceptance of HIV increases, so do opportunities to date others with the same disease. Volttage.com was launched early in 2014 as a dating site for people with the virus. If a patient given a false-positive test result should utilize the services of this website (or other dating services like it), that patient could become infected.
2. Dangerous anti-viral drugs. Drugs like Videx and Zerit, which are popular anti-virals, have both been linked to fatal lactic acidosis and pancreatitis. Nevirapine has been linked to hepatotoxicity – a condition that can be fatal.
3. Loss of quality of life/ wrongful death. Living with an easily-transferrable and (eventually) fatal disease can affect how anyone sees the world. HIV positive patients are more likely to develop depression, and are at a greater risk for suicide.
A false-positive test result could easily ruin a person’s life; in cases where the patient wrongly believes s/he has HIV, the result could be disastrous.
Why false-positive test results can occur
The major problem with HIV tests is that more often than not, the tests look for antibodies – not HIV. A doctor who sees an increased level of antibodies in the blood may assume the presence of HIV. If the test comes back positive, doctors can confirm the diagnosis using a test called the Western blot. If the Western blog comes back negative, then a negative diagnosis is given. But neither test is fool-proof, and misreading the test results, or incorrect test results, could lead to a false-positive diagnosis of HIV. A false-positive may also occur if a person uses a home-HIV test, as there is no guarantee that the labs performing the tests or the people inspecting the results are qualified to do so.
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