Biological False-Positive Syphilis Test Results for Women Infected With Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Clin Infect Dis. 1994 Dec;19(6):1040-4. doi: 10.1093/clinids/19.6.1040.


Regardless of the nontreponemal test used for the screening and diagnosis of syphilis, biological false-positive results (BFPs) are documented in 1%-2% of all cases. An association between BFPs and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in men has been suggested. We conducted a cohort study to determine whether a similar association between HIV seropositivity and BFPs exists for women. Among 156 HIV-seropositive women, 9 (5.8%) had a BFP for syphilis. Among 633 HIV-seronegative women, only 1 (0.2%) had a BFP. When the 25 HIV-seropositive patients and 55 HIV-seronegative patients with reactive rapid plasma reagin tests and microhemagglutination assays for antibodies to Treponema pallidum were excluded from the calculations, 6.9% and 0.2% of HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative women, respectively, had BFPs (P < .001; odds ratio, 39.45; 95% confidence interval, 6.4-879.0). An association was found between injection drug use and BFPs for the population of HIV-infected women but did not entirely account for the differences between this group and the HIV-seronegative group.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / complications*
  • HIV Seronegativity
  • HIV Seropositivity / complications
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Syphilis / diagnosis*
  • Syphilis Serodiagnosis