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MSNBC: Porn star’s false-positive HIV test raises questions; Chance of a False Positive 1 in 250,000

from www.msnbc.com – The porn film star who tested HIV-positive last week and shut down Los Angeles’ billion-dollar industry, does not have the virus, an advocacy group for the adult entertainment industry announced.

Diane Duke, a spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition in Los Angeles, told the Associated Press the group is investigating how the porn star falsely tested positive for the virus, and said the industry would resume film production.

While the issue raised questions in the adult film industry, which requires its members to take HIV tests every 30 days, Ged Kenslea, communication director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, says the chance of a false positive is rare.

“The public at large doesn’t need to start getting two HIV tests,” he says. “We conduct 40,000 tests each year in California, Florida and Washington, D.C., and of those 40,000 tests we have probably 30 false positives.”

False positives can occasionally occur if the counselor contaminates a sample in some way, something is wrong with the actual test or the person has another virus that throws the test, Kenslea adds.

Dr. Bernard Branson, medical epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says based on 5 million blood donors, the chance of a false positive is about 1 in 250,000. If someone tests positive, the person should be automatically retested, he says.

“While more people are being tested for HIV than ever before — half of Americans adults still have not been tested,” he says. “HIV testing saves lives.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 50,000 new HIV infections each year. In 2009, the latest year for which data is available, about 48,000 new HIV cases were reported. CDC recommends that adolescents and adults be tested for HIV as a routine part of healthcare and that people at high risk be tested more often than others.

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