Will I test negative if my viral load is undetectable?

When an HIV-positive person is on effective treatment, a routine test known as a viral load test will often show that the virus is undetectable.

You may wonder, if the virus is undetectable in my blood, will I still test positive on an HIV test?

An HIV test is taken to see if someone is living with HIV. To do this, most HIV tests look in your blood for antibodies made in response to HIV rather than the HIV virus itself.

These HIV antibodies are produced by your body as part of its defence against HIV and can be found in the body a few weeks after HIV infection. These antibodies remain within the body even when the level of virus is low. Even if you are undetectable, there will still be some HIV hidden in some parts of the body, so you will usually test positive for HIV. To learn more about how HIV remains in your body, despite being undetectable in our blood please see here.

In rare cases, antibody tests may return a false negative response due to low amounts of antibodies in the body. This result does not mean that HIV has been cured or removed. It just shows that the HIV test used wasn’t able to identify enough of the antibody due to the effectiveness of the HIV treatment.

If you were to stop taking HIV treatment, the amount of HIV in your blood would become detectable again because there are no longer HIV medications in your body to stop it.

For more information on HIV tests, and how they interact with HIV treatment, see here.

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