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Advanced Blood Testing For Hiv And Hepatitis C

The Minister of Health today announced blood donations would be subject to a new test to screen for HIV and hepatitis C.

"Nucleic Acid Testing (NAT) is a new technology which allows blood donations to be screened for hepatitis C and HIV viruses.

"It directly detects the genetic material of viruses instead of having to wait for the body's response to form antibodies against these viruses. It reduces the time between when a person is infected and when the disease detected.

"The implementation of Nucleic Acid Testing will significantly shorten the 'window period' - the time between when a person is infected with a virus and when current screening tests can detect it.

"The new technology means that blood is becoming safer and safer all the time. The new test will help ensure donated blood is as safe as it can be.

"The routine screening of blood donations by NAT will enhance the existing hepatitis C and HIV screening tests which detect viral antibodies."

Since the introduction of the antibody screening tests for HIV in 1985, and hepatitis C in 1992, there have been no reported cases of these viruses being transmitted by blood.

The new screening process is expected to be in place by December next year and will cost approximately $6-million each year.

Australia is also introducing Nucleic Acid Testing for blood donations.

ENDS

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