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FTC Targets Internet HIV Tests

An Internet company has been charged with misrepresenting the accuracy of its HIV tests, making it the second HIV test marketer targeted by federal regulators this year.

In a complaint unsealed Tuesday, the Federal Trade Commission charged that David M. Rothbart, who does business as Medimax Inc., made false representations for his home test kits for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

At the request of the FTC, a federal District Court in Orlando, Fla., issued a temporary restraining order against Rothbart, stopping him from engaging in the marketing or sale of HIV tests and freezing his assets.

The FTC complaint seeks to permanently stop Rothbart from making misrepresentations in connection with marketing or selling tests and to repay consumers, officials said.

The agency alleges that Rothbart's Web site identified Medimax as "the industry leader in the distribution of clinically proven and FDA-approved diagnostic rapid tests." A prominent test featured on the site is one not even approved for sale in the United States, regulators charged.

Regulators also charge in their complaint that 9 of 10 of Rothbart's HIV tests provided false negative results when tested with HIV-positive blood. The 10th test did not work at all, officials said.

"The commission is committed to pursuing Internet marketers of faulty HIV tests," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "One can scarcely imagine a more pernicious and harmful form of deception."

Just last month, the FTC announced the settlement of charges that Cyberlinx Marketing Inc. of Las Vegas made false representations on the Internet about its HIV home test kits. Cyberlinx agreed to be banned from marketing any HIV test kits and pay back the money it received from the sale of its kits.

The only approved home test kit for the AIDS virus is the "Home Access Express HIV Test System" made by Home Access Health Corp., the agencies said.