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Twenty-Five Years of HIV Blood Testing Helped to Positively Transform Global Health Crisis

ABBOTT PARK, Ill., March 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Imagine delaying a life-saving surgery or being afraid to receive or donate blood for fear of contracting HIV. It seems unbelievable today, but twenty-five years ago, this was the reality as the world struggled to keep the deadly virus out of the blood supply.



In 1985, an estimated one in 100 blood transfusions was infected with the HIV virus in some United States cities. Twenty-five years later — thanks to the innovative development of critical diagnostic tests that can identify HIV in the blood — this risk is now minimal and millions of patients are safely given blood transfusions each year.

Facts – Screening Blood for HIV

  • On March 2, 1985, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first-ever diagnostic test to screen blood donors for antibodies to HIV. This first test was developed by Abbott.
  • The first test to screen donors for exposure to the virus took nine months of around-the-clock work by dozens of Abbott scientists to develop.
  • U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Margaret Heckler announced FDA approval of the first test at a news conference in Washington, D.C. The screening test was immediately adopted by the American Red Cross and other blood organizations.

Facts – HIV

  • In 1985, the virus was widely called HTLV-III.  The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses changed the name to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in May of 1986.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 56,000 new cases of HIV in the United States annually, down from an estimated peak of 130,000 new cases in the mid-1980s.
  • In 2008, UNAIDS estimated that 2.7 million people throughout the world are newly infected with HIV each year, primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Women account for 50 percent of adults living with HIV globally.

Facts – Abbott and HIV

  • Since 1985, Abbott has launched more than 20 HIV assays on six testing platforms to meet the unique patient needs worldwide.
  • More than two billion blood donations and individual patients have been screened using Abbott assays since 1985.
  • Abbott has donated more than 100 million rapid HIV tests free of charge to qualifying programs in 69 countries.
  • The Abbott Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) Donation is designed to provide Determine® HIV 1/2 tests free of charge to sound, sustainable programs aimed at preventing mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) in eligible countries.
  • Abbott recently submitted the ARCHITECT Ag/Ab HIV Combo Assay to the FDA for expedited review. The ARCHITECT Ag/Ab HIV Combo Assay is not intended for use in screening blood, plasma or tissue donors.  This assay is currently an investigational device in the United States, and a similar combination assay is available internationally.
  • Abbott scientists have developed two leading drug therapies, called protease inhibitors, for the treatment of HIV.

Commentary on the 25th Anniversary of the First HIV Test

From James Curran, M.D., MPH, dean and professor of epidemiology of the Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University:   "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.  Blood wasn't safe until the HIV antibody test arrived at our labs."  

From Val Bias, CEO, National Hemophilia Foundation:  "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." 

From Michael Warmuth, senior vice president, Abbott Diagnostics:  "Since the launch of our first diagnostic test in 1985, Abbott has enhanced its strong legacy in HIV diagnostics with the development of six additional tests for blood banks.  The 25th anniversary of the first HIV antibody test offers the opportunity to pay tribute to the scientists around the world, including our own, who have contributed to better understanding of HIV. Diagnostic technology is a critical weapon for enhanced prevention and treatment as the fight against AIDS continues."

Video Sound Clips

  • Gerry Schochetman, Ph.D., senior director, infectious disease research and development, Abbott (Click to view video; Total time :51)
  • John Hackett, Ph.D., emerging pathogens and virus discovery, Abbott (Click to view video; Total time :28)
  • Harold Kessler, M.D., Rush University Medical Center (Click to view video); Total time :43)

About Abbott's Diagnostics Businesses

Abbott is a global leader in in vitro diagnostics and offers a broad range of innovative instrument systems and tests for hospitals, reference labs, molecular labs, blood banks, physician offices and clinics. With more than 69,000 customers in more than 100 countries, Abbott's diagnostic products offer customers automation, convenience, bedside testing, cost effectiveness and flexibility. Abbott has helped transform the practice of medical diagnosis from an art to a science through the company's commitment to improving patient care and lowering costs.  

About Abbott

Abbott (NYSE: ABT) is a global, broad-based health care company devoted to the discovery, development, manufacture and marketing of pharmaceuticals and medical products, including nutritionals, devices and diagnostics. The company employs approximately 83,000 people and markets its products in more than 130 countries.

Abbott's news releases and other information are available on the company's Web site at


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