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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – US Government Approves New AIDS Test - 2004-04-11

Broadcast: April 12, 2004

This is Robert Cohen with the VOA Special English Development Report.

The United States Food and Drug Administration has approved a new test for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. Experts say it is low in cost, easy to use and provides fast results. The method tests liquid saliva from a person’s mouth, instead of his or her blood. Results are ready within twenty minutes, and are ninety-nine percent correct.

OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania developed the test. It is called OraQuick Rapid H.I.V. Antibody Test. The test is based on technology created earlier by the company that tests a single drop of blood. OraSure President Michael Gausling says the saliva test can be used anywhere, anytime and by anyone.

He adds that there is no risk of spreading H.I.V. with the test. In the past, some health workers have accidentally become infected when testing people’s blood for the virus.

Public health officials believe the OraQuick test will help fight AIDS in two ways. First, it could result in more people getting tested. The process is simple. A piece of cotton is moved across the gums inside a person’s mouth. It is then put into a liquid in the testing device. Two colored lines appear on the device if antibodies to the virus are present.

The test also will permit people to get their results quickly. In many developing countries, blood test results can take up to two weeks. Because of this, people often do not return to find out if they are infected. The new test will let a person know within twenty minutes if he or she is infected. An infected person could receive immediate information about treatment and how to stop the disease from spreading.

World health officials estimate that as many as ninety-five percent of people with H.I.V. in developing countries do not know they are infected. Mister Gausling hopes the OraQuick test will change this. He says that humanitarian aid workers and people with limited health care experience will now be able to quickly identify and help patients with the disease.

OraSure officials estimate the OraQuick test will cost between eight and twenty dollars in the United States. However, they believe the product will cost much less in other countries. American officials say the new H.I.V. test will be especially important for use in Africa, which is the worst affected part of the world.This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. This is Robert Cohen.