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False positive HIV tests

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Manufacturers of ELISA tests claim that their tests are highly specific and very sensitive, with accuracies in excess of 99%.

The clinician however should be aware that a positive HIV antibody test may be false, and that all positive tests require the sending of a further sample.

Reasons include:

  • a very low prevalence of HIV in the population
  • clerical error
  • laboratory assay error

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