News24, 08 November 2002, New Aids test is superquick

Washington - A new diagnostic device allowing medics to detect the Aids virus in as little as 20 minutes has received government approval in the United States in what officials described as a major step towards curbing the deadly pandemic.

Health services secretary Tommy Thompson said when he announced the food and drug administration's decision: "It's going to be a wonderful tool for our counsellors and people to help us in our fight against HIV/Aids in the country and in the world."

The OraQuick rapid diagnostic test kit that was developed by OraSure Technologies, a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based medical research company, uses less than a drop of blood from a finger and has an accuracy rate of 99.6%, according to health officials.

Can be used outside lab settings

The blood is transferred to a vial where it is mixed with a developing solution.

The test device is inserted into the vial where, if HIV-1 antibodies are present, it displays two reddish-purple lines in a small window.

Unlike other antibody tests for HIV, the new device can be stored at room temperature and may be considered for use outside traditional laboratory or clinical settings.

For the moment, however, the OraQuick test has been approved only for laboratory conditions by certified medical personnel. - Sapa-AFP