Rapid HIV Test for Needle-Leery People

FDA approves test that uses outer gum cells

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FRIDAY, March 26, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid HIV test that requires no blood sample.

Instead, the OraQuick test involves swiping a person's outer gum cells with a specially treated cotton swab. Results are available in as little as 20 minutes.

If results on the oral fluids are positive, they must be confirmed with a more specific test, the agency notes in a prepared statement. The new test is not approved to screen potential blood donors, the statement adds.

Approval of the OraSure Technologies Inc. product marks the second rapid HIV test to hit the market. The prior test, produced by the same firm and approved in November 2002, involves drawing a spot of blood from a person's finger.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says he hopes the test will mean more people infected with HIV will find out their status. Before rapid HIV tests were introduced, getting results took as long as two weeks, and thousands who were tested every year never returned to learn whether they were positive.

Needle-free testing also provides a safer method for health-care workers, Thompson adds.

To learn more about HIV/AIDS testing, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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