Is a positive western blot proof of HIV infection?

Biotechnology (N Y). 1993 Jun;11(6):696-707. doi: 10.1038/nbt0693-696.


It is currently accepted that a positive Western blot (WB) HIV antibody test is synonymous with HIV infection and the attendant risk of developing AIDS. In this communication we present a critical evaluation of the presently available data on HIV isolation and antibody testing. This evidence indicates that: (1) the antibody tests are not standardized; (2) the antibody tests are not reproducible; (3) the WB proteins (bands) which are considered to be encoded by the HIV genome and to be specific to HIV may not be encoded by the HIV genome and may in fact represent normal cellular proteins; (4) even if the proteins are specific to HIV, because no gold standard has been used to determine specificity, a positive WB may represent nothing more than cross-reactivity with non-HIV antibodies present in AIDS patients and those at risk. We conclude that the use of antibody tests as a diagnostic and epidemiological tool for HIV infection needs to be reappraised.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Blotting, Western* / standards
  • DNA, Viral / chemistry
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / standards
  • Genes, Viral
  • HIV / genetics
  • HIV / isolation & purification
  • HIV Antibodies / blood
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • Humans


  • DNA, Viral
  • HIV Antibodies