Azara Blog: Man allegedly HIV-positive and then HIV-negative

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Date published: 2005/11/13

The BBC says:

Doctors say they want to investigate the case of a British man with HIV who apparently became clear of the virus.

Scotsman Andrew Stimpson, 25 was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2002 but was found to be negative in October 2003.

Mr Stimpson, from London, said he was "one of the luckiest people alive".

Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed the tests were accurate but were unable to confirm Mr Stimpson's cure because he had declined to undergo further tests.

A statement from the trust said: "This is a rare and complex case. When we became aware of Mr Stimpson's HIV negative test results we offered him further tests to help us investigate and find an explanation for the different results.

"So far Mr Stimpson has declined this offer."

A trust spokeswoman added: "We urge him, for the sake of himself and the HIV community, to come in and get tested.

"If he doesn't feel that he can come to Chelsea and Westminster then he should please go to another HIV specialist."

This was the lead story on the ITV news tonight. It is amazing that either ITV or the BBC give this story any credence. The most likely situation by far is that one or other of the tests was wrong (hopefully the first one). The fact that the hospital "confirmed the tests were accurate" is neither here nor there, they are hardly likely to admit there might be something wrong for fear of being sued. Needless to say all tests have a certain probability of both false positives (e.g. someone without HIV is found by some test to have HIV) and false negatives (e.g. someone with HIV is found by some test not to have HIV). And not just because the test itself might be flawed. There are all sorts of ancillary reasons why the results might be wrong, e.g. a mix-up of the sample, accidental contamination, incorrect transcription of data, etc. Anyone who claims test results are perfect is deluded or lying. Of course it's possible there might be a deep medical advance in waiting here. But don't count on it.

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