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New, Cheaper HIV Test Could Improve Diagnoses In Low-Income Areas

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"New, Cheaper HIV Test Could Improve Diagnoses In Low-Income Areas"

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Scientists are developing a new HIV test that they hope to bring to developed nations struggling to combat high rates of HIV without adequate resources for their low-income populations.

Lead researcher Molly Stevens told Reuters that the new HIV test is ten times cheaper that the tests currently on the market, and can help bring sophisticated technology to areas that cannot afford the most accurate forms of HIV testing:

Simple and quick HIV tests that analyze saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.

“We would be able to detect infection even in those cases where previous methods, such as the saliva test, were rendering a ‘false negative’ because the viral load was too low to be detected,” [Stevens] said. [...]

“Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce,” Stevens said.

Early HIV detection is critical in fighting against the global AIDS epidemic, since it ensures that those infected with the virus can begin treatment as well as helps researchers track the effectiveness of different treatment methods. But the new test, which relies on nanotechnology to test serum from blood samples for the presence of an HIV biomarker, can also test for other diseases like sepsis, Leishmaniasis, tuberculosis, and malaria that can pose serious public health risks in developing nations.

Stevens told Reuters that the lead researchers plan to partner with not-for-profit global health organizations to distribute the new test in low-income countries. Gains in HIV research over the past several decade have remained stratified among racial and class groups, both in the U.S. and abroad, where sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 1.2 million of the global 1.8 million HIV-related deaths.

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