Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Saliva Test Isn't Used to Discover Aids Virus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Saliva Test Isn't Used to Discover Aids Virus

Article excerpt

Dear Dr. Donohue: About 10 months ago, a person with AIDS kissed me on the mouth. He died two months ago. Recently, I saw an article in the newspaper about an AIDS test with saliva. I'm very concerned. Should I be? I have been losing lots of weight, and now weigh only 90 pounds.

Of the half-million AIDS cases in the United States since the beginning of the epidemic in the early 1980s, not a single one has been reliably attributed to kissing.

The saliva test is not the normal one for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. However, the AIDS virus has been found through oral testing, albeit in small numbers.

Some do find it hard to accept the idea that numbers are involved, that a virus or two won't infect a person. In fact, the virus population often must get quite high for infection to take place.

I'm speaking loosely. In fact, the saliva test does not find viruses. Nor is it saliva being tested. A cotton pledget is placed between the patient's gum and lip. The fluid thus absorbed is plasma, the liquid part of blood from local blood vessels. That's where the antibodies for the AIDS virus reside.

I have learned a fact of human nature in talking about AIDS and other serious infections over the years. Doubt is a hardy human trait. It would rather ignore the arcane concepts that expertise accepts. Talk about numbers of organisms required for infection seems illogical, or at best hair-splitting. But it is the fact of the matter.

If my explanation leaves you still wondering and worried, you can get the standard AIDS test.

Your weight loss concerns me. You are approaching skeletal proportions, and you need to find out what is going on.

*****

Dear Dr. Donohue: I recently was diagnosed with herpes simplex (cold sores). It bothers me that I will never be able to kiss anyone again. In an old biology textbook, an article said they were working on a vaccine. …

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