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In an effort to reduce the number of individuals who are unaware that they are infected with HIV, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of a new HIV testing method that is capable of detecting infections days earlier than previous tests.
The new testing methods looks for HIV antigens - proteins produced by the virus - in blood samples. These are produced at an earlier stage of infection than HIV specific antibodies, the presence of which is used by current HIV tests to determine whether or not there is an infection.
"A significant percentage of new HIV infections are transmitted by someone with an undetected acute infection, so identifying more people earlier offers a significant opportunity for counseling, which can reduce high-risk behaviors," said Peter Leone, director of North Carolina HIV/STD Prevention and Control Branch.
He added that individuals are most infectious shortly after they have contracted the disease, and that detecting its presence earlier may help these people stay out of sexual situations.
The test had been used for years in Europe, where FDA officials said it showed strong results.
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