1. Within the envelope of the HIV virus is a bullet-shaped core made of another protein, p24, that surrounds the viral RNA. 2. The p24 antigen test looks for the presence of this protein in a patient's blood. 3. A positive result for the p24 antigen suggests active HIV replication. p24 found in the peripheral blood is thought to also correlate with the amount of virus in the peripheral blood. It is believed that there are measurable levels of p24 when first infected with the virus after which there is a strong antibody response to p24 in early disease. Low or unmeasurable levels of p24 may indicate that the virus is in a dormant stage. Spikes in p24 levels may indicate that HIV has begun active replication.
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