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article imageHIV blood testing revamped global health crisis for 25 years

By KJ Mullins     Mar 2, 2010 in Health
More than two decades ago, as the world dealt with a new deadly virus called HIV, people were afraid to donate or receive blood for life-saving surgeries. That was 1985, before a blood test was approved to screen for HIV.
Before Abbott, a global, broad-based health care company, developed a blood test that could be used to screen blood donors for antibodies to HIV, one in every 100 blood transfusions were infected with HIV in some U.S. cities. That first test took Abbott scientists nine months working around the clock to develop.
In 1985, what we now call HIV was called HTLV-III. It was not until May 1986 that it was renamed by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
"When people with hemophilia started dying in the '80s, it forced a cruel decision to either stop taking the miracle blood products that allowed us to lead full lives or risk infecting ourselves and our families with a deadly virus. When the HIV test became available, it enabled people with bleeding disorders to know if they were infected and to take precautions to protect their spouses and children," Val Bias, CEO, National Hemophilia Foundation said in a press release.
During its peak in the mid-1980's there were 130,000 new cases a year of HIV in the United States. That number has gone down to about 56,000 new cases a year.
Twenty-Five Years of HIV Blood Testing Helped to Positively Transform Global Health Crisis
Twenty-Five Years of HIV Blood Testing Helped to Positively Transform Global Health Crisis
Sadly in Sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the world, HIV has swollen to 2.7 million new cases a year. Half of those cases are women.
Since 1985, more than two billion blood donations and patients have been tested for HIV using Abbot assays. Furthermore, 69 countries have been given more than 100 million rapid HIV tests free of charge.
"Abbott's HIV antibody test was a pivotal public health milestone that ushered an era of scientific progress against AIDS, in which untold millions of lives were saved through enhanced detection of the virus and prevention of its transmission. In my opinion, this breakthrough was a landmark medical milestone for protecting public health," said James Curran, M.D., MPH, dean and professor of epidemiology of the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University in a press release. "Blood wasn't safe until the HIV antibody test arrived at our labs."
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