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HEALTH REPORT – November 20, 2002: Quick HIV Test - 2002-11-19

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a fast new test for H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS. The OraQuick test shows results in as little as twenty minutes. Experts say this means many more people probably will be tested. Results from most current H-I-V tests take days or even weeks. The F-D-A says the new test reports correct results almost one-hundred percent of the time.

OraSure Technologies Incorporated of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania developed the OraQuick test It requires a single drop of blood from a person’s finger. The blood is placed in a small container with a special liquid. A testing stick is placed in the liquid.

The test finds if antibodies to H-I-V are present in the person’s blood. Antibodies are proteins the body produces after an infection. However, people infected with H-I-V usually do not develop antibodies to the virus for three months. So people at risk should be tested again if a first test does not show antibodies.

An estimated nine-hundred-thousand Americans are infected with H-I-V. But experts say up to twenty-five percent of these people do not know they are infected. Currently, about half the people tested for H-I-V in public health centers fail to return to learn the results of the test. Health officials say the new test will enable people with H-I-V to start treatment sooner. People who know they have the virus also can change their sexual activities to prevent spreading the virus to other people.

Health officials also say the OraQuick test may reduce the spread of H-I-V from mothers to newborn babies. A pregnant woman could be tested before she gives birth. The test can also help health workers. It can tell if they have been threatened by blood from infected patients. If so, the workers can start drug treatment immediately to prevent getting the virus.

The F-D-A has approved the test for use in hospitals, medical centers and doctors’ offices that meet federal laboratory requirements. But the government has asked the company that makes the test to request that these requirements be eased. This would mean that many more health centers could give the test.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson praised the test as a very important step in America’s fight against AIDS.

This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.