• U.S.

Medicine: Testing Blood for Aids

2 minute read

Since 1981 the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta reports that Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome has struck more than 8,000 Americans, 90% of them gay men or drug abusers. But the CDC says that at least 119 Americans have contracted the lethal AIDS from blood transfusions. With death lurking in the national blood supply, the Federal Government and five private drug companies began developing a method to detect evidence of AIDS infection in donated blood. The first such tests have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and last week test kits from Abbott Laboratories were shipped to blood banks around the country and overseas.

While the tests represent a significant breakthrough, they have been criticized for inaccuracy. They do not reveal the presence of the actual AIDS virus but rather the antibodies to the virus. Since an AIDS victim in the very early or very late stages of the disease may not produce antibodies, the tests could allow 5% to 10% of contaminated blood samples to slip through undetected. Moreover, some homosexual men produce AIDS antibodies but may not contract the disease. Gay leaders fear that the supposedly confidential test results will be sought by employers and insurance companies to determine who is a homosexual or an AIDS risk.

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