What can Cause a False Positive Herpes Test?

What can Cause a False Positive Herpes Test – Over the years, numerous people with no history of herpes symptoms have called me to begin counseling or group therapy after getting a herpes diagnosis from a blood test screening alone. It is true that you can have herpes and not be aware of the symptoms.

Though, if someone tells me they have never recognized any symptoms, we think it’s worth exploring a little further to make sure the diagnosis is accurate.

We suggest that they get a copy of their results and look at whether they had an IgG or IgM-based test (the CDC says IgM-based tests should not be used to diagnose herpes).

What can Cause a False Positive Herpes Test?

What can Cause a False Positive Herpes Test

Once they confirm that it was an IgG-based test, we ask them to look for the index value of their result. Now, about 50% of people who test positive for HSV-2 on an IgG-based test with an index value between 1.1 and 3.5 do not have herpes the lower the value, the higher chance of a false positive, the higher the value the more probable it’s a precise result.

The CDC mentions that anyone who tests positive on an IgG-based test with an index value that falls between 1.1 and 3.0 should get confirmatory testing (experts say the Western Blot is the best confirmatory test). Research shows that there can even be false positives above this variety in some people. 

Getting Help with Confirmatory Testing

We’ve found that a significant part of mental health for patients with herpes is to feel a sense of understanding and agency around their diagnosis and test results and to learn info that can help them make a decision about whether they want to follow confirmatory testing or not. we frequently refer patients with low positive results to consult with a medical expert if they have additional questions.

The healthcare provider we trust the most with these types of questions is Terri Warren, NP, who has been an outstanding resource for several of my patients. There might be other healthcare providers who can navigate suitable confirmatory testing, but numerous providers have not learned how to do this.

If you are enquiring about your diagnosis and want to learn more about confirmatory testing, you can do so here. If you need help coping with the diagnosis or with awaiting results, therapy or a support group can frequently help.

A Little Something About HSV-1 

HSV-1 can also have low index values that are false positive. If there are no past symptoms and it is a true positive, it is unbearable to know if an HSV-1 infection is oral or genital (unless the individual has never had contact that could expose the genital area). Now, More than 50% of adults in the U.S. will test positive for HSV-1. 

Maximum HSV-1 infections are oral and plenty of people don’t memory ever having a cold sore or symptoms that would clarify their HSV-1 diagnosis. That said, there are also numerous people who contract it genitally, frequently from someone who has the infection verbally and performs oral sex (with or without active symptoms).

Coping with Results

Finding out your result is not a false positive or just having to wait for confirmation of a result can be really problematic. If your result is a true positive, please know that you are not alone! we know this is not something you probably ever thought you would have to deal with. It can take time to adjust, but you unconditionally can still date, have sex, have relationships, and feel decent about yourself again. You might not be able to imagine it right now, but it’s true. We hope the resources in this blog can help guide you. 

If you are in New York and would like in-person counseling or to contribute to my therapy group for women diagnosed with herpes, please reach out.


  • Is it common to have a false positive herpes test?

This can occur with many kinds of diagnostic tests. Though, the chance of a false positive herpes test result is much higher than when testing for STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. This is because present herpes tests are not as precise as tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea.

  • Can something else cause a positive herpes test?

Herpes tests aren’t the only singles with a risk of false positive results. False positives can happen for any test that diagnoses viral infection based on antibodies, i.e., your body’s immune reaction, rather than straight detection of the virus.

  • How common are false herpes tests?

If a test is 90% precise, that means that 90 people out of 100 will be properly diagnosed as not having a disease and that 10 people will have a false-positive result. The higher the sensitivity and specificity, the lower the odds of a false (incorrect) result.

More Herpes Guides:


Genital herpes, mainly produced by herpes simplex virus type 2, is a sexually transmitted disease that’s very common — 1 in 6 people aged 14 to 49 in the United States have HSV-2, and this number goes up with age.

Most of these people, though, don’t have obvious symptoms and wouldn’t know they were transporters without blood tests.

We have shared everything about the Truth about False Positive Herpes Test Results in this article on “What can Cause a False Positive Herpes Test” for you if the info that we shared above assisted you in any way then do share it with others.

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