Q and A


Can a person with undetectable viral load test HIV negative on rapid HIV test?



The viral load test and HIV test look for different things.

The HIV test is an antibody test that shows whether your immune system has ever reacted to HIV infection. Usually this immune response lasts for a lifetime. It is not related to viral load.

However, sometimes people who start meds VERY soon after the caught HIV (ie within days or weeks) had been reported to later test HIV negative. This doesnt mean they are cured though. If the meds are stopped, viral load is likely to rebound very quickly – and they will also test positive again on the rapid antibody test.


  1. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Babalo,

    It’s good that you started HIV treatment (ART) in September. That’s because HIV viral load can drop by 90% within the first few days, and by 99% within the first few weeks of starting ART.

    However, most people who are HIV positive will always test antibody positive with a rapid result. But you can ask your doctor to check why you had the two HIV antibody negative results.

    You can also ask about your viral load results. If your viral load was undetectable when you had sex without a condom, the chances are that the risk was zero. Please see this link to undetectable = untransmittable (U=U).

    Please ask your doctor for your viral load results.

  2. Babalo

    Am HIV positive since may 2018, I started the meds towards the end of September 2019 by then my CD4 count was 575. towards the end of January Rapid test results were negative and I did another test, a normal HIV test it also came out negative. does that means my virus is undetectable?

    The reason am asking is that I had unprotected sex now am afraid that my partner will be infected

  3. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Ed,

    Even if a cure is found, someone will still test positive using an HIV antibody test.

    Please see this Q&A for more information.

  4. Ed

    If an HIV cure was to be found soon, will the antibody still remain in my blood?

  5. Alex

    Appreciated Roy for your response.

    I’ve recently read about rare cases of seronegative hiv infection beyond the window period and that’s something very confusing.

  6. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Alex,

    Simon meant that the immune response stays for the lifetime, or for ever.

    It means a person will always test antibody positive to HIV. That’s even if the viral load test can’t actually detect HIV itself.

    So there’s no reason to be anxious, if I’m right about your comment.

  7. Alex

    Hi Simon,
    Your answer made me a little anxious. What do you mean “The HIV test is an antibody test that shows whether your immune system has ever reacted to HIV infection”. Can the immune system never react to HIV infection?

  8. Roy Trevelion

    Hi Hellene,

    Please can you explain you question a bit better? Do you mean you are taking many other meds as well as your HIV meds?

    Please let us know what meds you’re taking, as well as your HIV meds. And do you have access to your viral load and CD4 result? Please tell us what they are too.

  9. Hellene

    Can too many medication be the cause of my medication not to work


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