Around 10 per cent of HIV positive people in NSW may be unaware they are infected, a statistic NSW Health is looking to change.
NSW Health will stage HIV Testing Week from 14-20 July and will be encouraging at risk people to have a HIV test. Getting an HIV test is now easier and faster than ever before.
A ‘pop-up’ rapid HIV testing bus will be parked on Taylor Square, Darlinghurst daily from Monday 14 July to Friday 18 July between 3pm – 6pm. The South Eastern Sydney Local Health District (SESLHD) testing bus will be encouraging gay men and other at risk people to get an HIV test, following the success of a similar test site at the same location last year.
NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said that rapid HIV testing is just one option from a mix of high quality, safe and innovative HIV testing services being offered across NSW. Sexual health services, express clinics, after hours and drop in clinics, faster results and online booking are all part of a new era in HIV testing in NSW. People can also request a test at their GP.
A social media campaign will also be running to make HIV testing top of mind. There will be #HelpEndHIV roving social media ‘hot spots’ all around inner Sydney. The hot spots will encourage people to upload photos showing their support for #HelpEndHIV on social media.
Dr Kerry Chant said around 10,500 people in NSW are living with diagnosed HIV infection.
“Increasing testing rates is vital because HIV is generally transmitted by people who don’t know they have it,” she said.
“However, many people have not been tested recently, do not know they are HIV positive, and are possibly transmitting HIV to others.
“During HIV Testing Week, we are encouraging people to check their HIV status, and also support the campaign #HelpEndHIV by posting on their social media accounts.
“The good news is that in the first three months of 2014, there is a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses in the early stages of the infection than in previous years, suggesting that the increase in testing is picking up more infections earlier,” Dr Chant said.
Dr Chant said most infections reported in 2013 were in gay and homosexually-active men (78 per cent) with heterosexual cases accounting for 17 per cent.
“In 2013, HIV testing has increased both overall in NSW and among high risk groups but more needs to be done. People can support #Ending-HIV by getting tested and joining our social media campaign.”
As well as gay men, heterosexual people who may be at risk of HIV should be tested. This includes people from countries which have high rates of HIV infection and anyone who has had unprotected sex while travelling in any of these countries. Anyone who has had unprotected sex with a high risk person should also be tested.
“Achieving high levels of testings, treatment, and maintaining safe sex practice are the key if we are to achieve our ambitious target of ending HIV,” Dr Chant said.
As part of HIV Testing Week, ACON, the lead NSW agency for HIV prevention among gay men, together with SESLHD, is launching a[TEST] Kings X (Kings Cross), a new rapid HIV testing facility at Clinic 180, 180 Victoria St, Potts Point. The facility will operate in partnership with Clinic 180 and the Kirketon Road Centre, with the support of the Ministry of Health and the Kirby Institute.
ACON CEO, Nicolas Parkhill said making HIV testing easier as well as educating gay men about the importance of testing more regularly are essential to ending HIV transmission in NSW.
"ACON is focused on making HIV testing easy, accessible and culturally appropriate for gay men, the population in NSW most affected by HIV," Mr Parkhill said.
"The new peer-run a[TEST] facility at Kings X joins our a[TEST] facilities in Surry Hills and Newtown, and will play an important role in making it easy for gay men to test more.
"Education initiatives such as HIV Testing Week, and pop up testing sites such as the one in Taylor Square during HIV Testing Week, are also part of this innovative approach and I encourage gay men to help us reach our goal of ending HIV by testing more regularly, either at one of ACON's a[TEST] services, other rapid testing centres around NSW, or at their local sexual health clinic or GP."
a[TEST] Kings X will offer rapid HIV testing and a full STI screen on Saturday afternoons from 3:30pm to 6:30pm. Visit www.endinghiv.org for more information.