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New AIDS test coming soon

The Story

AIDS is spreading in Canada, and it's now known the virus that causes the disease can also be transmitted through heterosexual sex, and blood transfusions. The Red Cross has taken steps to protect the nation's blood supply and is planning to test every drop of donated blood, but it's still waiting for provincial governments to approve funding for the test. Public fears about AIDS are on the rise as Canadians realize the risk of contracting the disease isn't limited to gay men, intravenous drug users, or Haitians. The CBC Radio call-in program Cross Country Checkup asks, "Are you worried about AIDS?" and invites Dr. John Derrick, head of blood product services at the Red Cross, to discuss the new test.

Medium: Radio
Program: Cross Country Checkup
Broadcast Date: June 16, 1985
Guest(s): John Derrick
Host: Pat Blandford
Duration: 7:22

Did You know?

• In the summer of 1984, shortly after the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, researchers in the United States began to develop a commercial test kit that could be marketed for testing blood donations.
• The test didn't detect the presence of AIDS or even of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Instead, it tested for the presence of HIV antibodies -- cells the human body creates to combat the virus. The same method to test for HIV is used today.

• The commercial test was licensed for use in the United States in March 1985, and testing of blood donations began within weeks. Australia was using the test for all its blood donations by mid-May 1985.
• In Canada, the Red Cross didn't have a detailed plan for the implementation of testing until May 1985, even though they'd known since the previous August that a test was under development. The Red Cross finally introduced the test on Nov. 4, 1985.

• The eight-month delay was attributed to many factors. The Canadian Blood Committee took two months to review the budget for testing and didn't approve it until Aug. 1, 1985. There was also no method by which the Red Cross could obtain emergency funds, and it was reluctant to use its own cash reserves.

• Because the provinces are financially responsible for health care, the Red Cross had to consult with ten governments before making any financial decision in the late 1970s. The Canadian Blood Committee was created in 1982 to fund the blood system and end this unwieldy practice. It consisted of representatives from each province's health department and had a mandate to direct the Canadian blood system.

• Epidemiologist Dr. Robert S. Remis has estimated that about 133 cases of HIV transmission could have been prevented had testing been introduced in March of 1985 rather than in November.
• The incubation period for HIV is two to five years. That means an infected person would have no symptoms and could make multiple donations of blood without being aware of the infection.


The Krever Report: Canada's Tainted Blood Disaster more