New HIV Test Approved by FDA

Each year over 50,000 people in the U.S. become infected with HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 1.1 million Americans are living with HIV, and over one-quarter of them do not know it. HIV is most often transmitted through sexual intercourse or direct contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal fluids, but it can also be transmitted through blood or organ donations. However, due to improvements in donor education and screening the risk of transmission through transfusions and transplants has decreased. These improvements now include the Abbott Prism HIV O Plus assay, an HIV antibody test.

The test, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September 2009 is licensed for screening donated blood and blood specimens, and for screening specimens from organ donors. Prior to 1985, there were no tests available to screen for HIV in blood and organ donations, but nowadays donors and organs go through extensive testing. “The risk of acquiring HIV from a blood transfusion… is estimated to be 1 in 4 for every 600,000 transfusions. The risk… from organ transplantation is probably similar.”

The two most common blood tests used to previously detect HIV were the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), and the Western blot assay, which are both antibody tests. These tests can only tell if a person has been infected with HIV, not how long they’ve been infected or if they have AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome, the final stage of HIV disease).

This new HIV test will help decrease the number of HIV transmissions through blood transfusions and organ donations, and  help make the world a safer place.

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