If you are trying to conceive, you probably understand that there are a plethora of tests you will face to ensure that you and your baby will be healthy for the duration of the pregnancy and thereafter. Included in the list of tests is usually an HIV test. Even if you were tested before conception, you might be tested again, as the risk of passing HIV down to your child is a great one. However, when it comes to HIV testing in pregnant women, there have been some complications in the past. Due to the increased presence of certain antibodies in a pregnant woman’s system, there are more instances of false positives. In other words, even if you do not have HIV, your test results might come back positive simply because of the chemistry of your pregnant body. Clearly, this is an extremely negative side effect of the HIV test, because the emotional burden it places on the pregnant woman is immense.
The results of a recent study did show that this was true for standard HIV testing in pregnant women. There were higher instances of false-positives than for women who were not pregnant, or men. However, this was only true for the general EIA test that pregnant women go through, which is a more general blood test. In addition to HIV, the EIA test also screens for hepatitis, Rubella, and high levels of progesterone. While pregnant women did have more false positives in this test, the same was not true for a rapid HIV test. Less pregnant women tested false positive on the rapid HIV test than on the EIA test. In the study, when the same sample was tested with both methods, seven false positives showed up on the EIA test while none showed up on the rapid test.
If you are pregnant and are going to be tested for HIV, you will probably need to get it through the EIA method of testing. This test has its benefits, as it tests for many different issues all at once. However, if your EIA test comes back with a positive HIV result and you are fairly certain you are not HIV-positive based on recent testing, take it with a grain of salt, and request a secondary rapid HIV test. It is much more likely that this test will come back negative, and it will put your mind at ease.
Source: Tamara T. Chao et al: Risk Factors Associated with False Positive HIV Test Results in a Low-Risk Urban Obstetric Population. Journal of Pregnancy Volume 2012 June 2011