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FAQ: Inconclusive Test Results

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do "inconclusive" test results mean on a home HIV test?

When you use a home HIV test, you collect a blood sample at home, usually by sticking your finger with a lancet and blotting the blood onto a piece of filter paper, which you send to a lab for standard HIV antibody testing.

An "inconclusive" result might mean "insufficient" or "indeterminate."

"Insufficient" simply means that there was a problem with the sample you provided that prevented it from being tested at all. "Indeterminate" means that the test was run but didn't provide a clear negative or positive result. People with indeterminate HIV test results can be HIV infected and in the process of seroconverting, a time during which an HIV test would show a result somewhere between negative and positive.

Also, for many reasons (other viral infections, or just nonspecific antibodies in the blood), some people can be HIV uninfected and have an indeterminate test. The best course of action would be to repeat the test, but things can get a bit tricky: If the second result is negative, which one do you trust? Ideally, the old blood sample would be retested at the same time as the new one is tested, to see whether there was a problem with the testing method when the first test was run. That isn't always possible. And retesting through home-collection test kits can get very expensive very quickly.

An alternative would be to get retested at a local voluntary testing and counseling site (run by various organizations and searchable on the Internet), or to get tested through your clinic at the VA. Explain your previous indeterminate result to the staff; they should have a protocol for addressing this situation, whether it involves combining a repeat antibody test with an RNA test, or performing a series of antibody tests.