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HIV and AIDS

Should My Son Get Retested?

08/06/2001

Question:

My son who is 23 has been using heroin for 3 years intrveniously. He was tested at a rehabilitation center and they said he tested negative for hepatitis and HIV. They told him to have another test in 6 months. Does this sound ligitimate?

Answer:

The tests done for HIV and for some of the causes of Hepatitis look for antibodies (the bodies response to infection) rather than the virus itself. Because of this, tests performed early after exposure may still be negative although someone has been exposed. It is therefore the standard recommendation that a negative test be confirmed six months later. However, if your son has continued to place himself at risk for HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C by continuing to use intravenous heroin, he should be retested every 6 months as he continues to potentially be in the early phase of infection each time. Some forms of Hepatitis (hepatitis B) may be prevented with vaccination and high risk individuals may benefit from vaccine but unfortunately no vaccine is available for Hepatitis C or HIV.

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Response by:

George   Smulian, MBBCh George Smulian, MBBCh
Assistant Professor of Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati