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We have adopted a child, when can we get him tested for HIV?

Q: We have adopted a baby boy recently. We love him very much but we are anxious whether he has AIDS/HIV. When can we test for AIDS/HIV in babies? The doctor told us that there is no use testing babies since the virus will show only after 2 years. Is this correct? What are the symptoms for AIDS/HIV and do we face any risk while handling him?

A:Congratulations on adopting a baby boy and that he will have wonderful loving parents. It is correct that testing a young baby for HIV using the usual antibody tests can give false results as the mother's antibodies will give a positive result even if the baby is not infected if the mother was HIV positive. Mother's antibodies can persist for over a year and so those tests (such as the usual ELISA) can give misleading false positive results. ELISA type tests only gives an accurate test after the age of 18 months. In case an earlier diagnosis is required and the mother is positive then the baby can be tested with an antigen based test such as the PCR tests, which can give an accurate idea of the baby's HIV status even a short while after birth. Do you know whether the mother was HIV positive? If not get the usual test done; if it is negative stop worrying. If it is positive then it may be a false result, and either get a PCR done or do another test after 18 months. There are no symptoms that will help you to decide if he is infected. Generally HIV positive children have poorer growth and more than their share of common illnesses. The diagnosis must be by the appropriate tests. Whether or not the baby is HIV infected, he is no danger to you. You do not need to take any special precautions, just remember the need for sensible hygiene. The child, like all other babies needs lots of love and handling by his parents.

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