Confusion after mother living with HIV ‘tests negative’

A 43-year-old woman, currently nursing a healthy 7-month-old baby, has been on Septrin for five years on the presumption that she was HIV positive. But she has now been tested two times and found to be ‘HIV

A 43-year-old woman, currently nursing a healthy 7-month-old baby, has been on Septrin for five years on the presumption that she was HIV positive. But she has now been tested two times and found to be ‘HIV

The mother of nine says: “After the father of my seven-year-old child died, I went and tested for HIV at Kiwoko hospital, and they told me that I was HIV positive. I started taking medicine called Septrin, and recently when they tested my blood again they told me that I did not have HIV.

“My current husband, the father of my
 seven-months-old baby, is HIV positive but he refuses to go on ARVs and he is very stubborn. At one time he had been started on Septrin then ARVs but he later stopped and refused to respond to any HCT [HIV counselling and testing] activities.”

The woman, who hails from Kibosa parish in Nakaseke district, talked to this reporter at the end of last month (24 August) at Kamuli primary school during a voluntary counselling and testing and PMTCT session organised by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance under the ViiV HealthCare’s Positive Action for children’s PMTCT fund project.

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Uganda
receives funding from ViiV HealthCare’s Positive Action for children’s fund to implement a three year PMTCT community referral strengthening project that started in January, 2012. This project is implemented in partnerships with community based networks/groups of persons Living with HIV (PLHIV), district based health facilities, and in partnerships with various NGOs and CBOs. The four districts covered in this arrangement are Luwero, Nakaseke,
Mukono and Iganga.

Responding to her second test, which diagnosed again that she is HIV negative, and asked about her future plans in relation to her HIV status, the woman said: “Today I have again taken the test and look, [brandishing her test results] they say that I am HIV negative and I do not have AIDS, the sickness that is associated with that virus. I also have a child who goes to school, his father died of AIDS, when I took him for testing, they said he did not have the virus. They instead told me to feed him well. But the teachers were complaining that he was always falling sick. This baby I am carrying…was also tested and he is HIV negative.”

Asked about her relationship with her husband whom she believes to be HIV positive, she says: “I love the father of my child very much,
 and he is a stubborn man. He cannot accept anything less and I have to please him. All counsellors have failed to convince him to start going for ARVs or to have another test.”

However, the woman still complains of other ailments like dizziness and constant headache. Sometimes she gets fits of epilepsy, known locally as Ensimbu.

But according to Dr. Stephen Ian
Walimbwa, head of the Discordant Couple Clinic at the Infectious Disease
 Institute (IDI) at Mulago hospital, the woman’s assertions as to her HIV status can only be
taken as speculation until the sample taken in 2007 when she was found to be HIV positive is retested.

He said: “It is possible that she was never HIV
positive when she tested then. I am not convinced that was HIV positive when she tested the first time and I highly doubt what they are saying.

“Even what she says – that her husband is HIV positive – remains speculation until he has been tested and followed up with a confirmatory test. It would be better if we tested her from here [at IDI] where we are privileged to have standard tests, even using DNA-PCR which is very reliable.”

Another HIV laboratory expert at IDI, Emmanuel Asule says:  “The problem, which other tests like Determine have, is that they can pick other antibodies even in cases that are not HIV related. This could have been the case of the woman the first time she had her test. But it is crucial to make the second confirmatory test, and we normally use Stat Pak, sometimes we even go for the third option using Unigold when the results are contradictory. Other times the inconsistencies could be caused by defects or a manufacturing error or a problem with the process of testing.”



  • comment-avatar
    Onome 5 years

    Any time a person is dsginoaed with HIV the doctors office must tell the CDC. The doctor would not lie to you. If you are worried then go to a different clinic and get another one. It takes about 6months to show up. I would accept the results, be happy, and now on use condoms.

  • comment-avatar
    Joseph Mwesige 5 years

    Dr.Joseph Mwesige Mbarara Hospital
    Department of Surgery

    This woman could have got wrong results for another HIV person and the other person took her Negative results the first time she tested.
    That man should do another test to confirm his HIV status,he could be HIV negative or save himself and his family should go for another test.

  • comment-avatar
    Unknown 4 years

    Hi i am 27 years old. I have a daughter of 2 years old. When i met her father everybody warned me against him, they said that he is HIV possitive, i did not believe and carried on with our relationship. Like 3 months in our relationship he told me that he was hospitalised with bronchitis. Something then told me that the rumours must be true because to my understanding of HIV that is one of the symptoms. I still did not stop the relationship. His got two children from a woman far older then him and according to people she infected him. Four months in our relationship i fell pregnant and soon after i gave birth the mother of his children passed on. I was shocked and devastated when i heard she lost her life to HIV/AIDS, Because then i believed more and more the rumours were true, however after giving birth to my daughter i tested, and it came out NEGATIVE. I was still not satisfied by that. I went to the clinic after 2 weeks, got tested again NEGATIVE. I could not believe that i am HIV negative yet all the proof is there that my childs father is infected. I almost lost my mind. I then went 5 times more after every 2 weeks, sometimes after 3 weeks and still tested NEGATIVE. Up until today i dont understand why i am still HIV NEGATIVE. Is it possible to have a child with someone who is infected with HIV/AIDS and still stay NEGATIVE. I am planning on taking my child for a HIV test asswell just to make sure, but as far as i am concern she is 2 years old and never ever gets sick with flu or any othe symptoms of HIV. Please can you help me understand this, is this possible?

  • comment-avatar
    HLOGI 4 years

    i once heard of a thing called “carrier”. u will test negative but carrying it in ur blood.
    i dnt know how true is this

  • comment-avatar
    diane 4 years

    ok is hard to start but here it goes I have a 19 month old bb girl and while I was pregnant I tested hiv negative.5 months ago her father ended up in the hospital sick and doctors said it was cancer and finally AIDS I wanted to die I said impossible I was negative while I was pregnant. I got tested in Aug. n I was positive devastating. I tested my daughter thank god she tested here it goes can my daughter still come out positive in the future?i cant sleep thinking about this. Please answer.

  • comment-avatar

    Hi all

    Thanks for your comments. I’d like to respond to a few of the issues raised.

    It is possible to have sexual relations with someone who is living with HIV and to not be infected, but that is rare. However, having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive always contains a risk and the best way to reduce that risk of HIV transmission is to use condoms consistently, and if your partner is HIV positive to get them to access to antiretroviral treatment early.

    With regards to mothers living with HIV, it is sometimes possible to give birth to an HIV negative child without having taken preventative treatment. However for mothers who are living with HIV, it is vital to visit health services to get antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) to prevent passing HIV onto your child. It is also very important to continue on the treatment for your own health and to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to the baby while you are breastfeeding.

    On the subject of being a ‘carrier’ – it is true that there is a small window of time when someone who is newly HIV infected may not test positive. There are also some few people who may have HIV and not get sick with it at all. These people are called ‘elite controllers’ because they can control the HIV virus without getting ill with it even when they are not on ARVs. These people are very rare. Most people always get ill at some point unless they take ARVs.

    If you know you or your child could have HIV then it is important that you seek medical help in order to get the best treatment to prevent HIV transmission and to continue to be tested regularly.

    But remember, whether you test positive or negative, it is important you take all measures to prevent HIV transmission in the future by using condoms, accessing treatment and ensuring you and others are informed about HIV.

  • comment-avatar

    I also tested positive 7 months ago . early last month I did a home test and found negative results . should I assume that am now negative?

  • comment-avatar

    Hi Mary

    I wouldn’t assume that, but I would recommend you go to a reputable health centre to get re-tested.



  • comment-avatar
    thenji 2 years

    MY sister tested hiv positive the time she was giving birth and she didn’t book for labour,but that baby came negative in 2012 December then in 2014 she got pregnant again we knew when she was 8mnths and she didn’t book again,she didn’t take any protection because the nurse said it’s late for that but the baby still non-reactive.can you please explain this to me?I am confused.