Once only available in Sydney’s Surry Hills and, more recently, at SHAIDS in Lismore, rapid HIV testing will be offered in Byron Bay from this month.
The new tests take just half an hour to deliver the important news instead of one-to-two weeks.
The rapid HIV test will be offered via a monthly Men’s Clinic at Byron Bay Hospital.
The reason for the new service, which is being launched during HIV Testing Week next week, is that 10 per cent of HIV positive people in NSW may be unaware they are infected.
The state government wants to reduce that number as part of its Ending HIV campaign.
North Coast HIV & Related Programs (HARP) in collaboration with ACON Northern Rivers believe that if they make testing easier for people they are more likely to take it up and so be able to access treatments earlier.
A pop-up rapid HIV testing van at Lismore’s Tropical Fruits festival pioneered the program and the new service has the group’s endorsement.
‘Testing leads to early diagnosis which enables early treatment. Treatments now available for HIV not only improve the health and wellbeing of those infected but also reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to others.’
Most infections reported in New South Wales in 2013 were in gay and homosexually active men (78 per cent) with heterosexual cases accounting for 17 per cent.
‘Gay and other homosexually active men are encouraged to test at least twice a year or up to four times a year for those who have more than 10 different partners in six months. Testing for other sexually transmitted infections is also recommended,’ Dr Smith said.
‘Rapid HIV testing is a simple process that involves a finger prick, with results available during the visit,’ said Dr Smith.
‘It is a big difference if you compare this to a decade ago when people would be forced to wait anxiously for days or even weeks before an HIV test result was known,’ Dr Smith added.
Ken Beilby of Tropical Fruits fully backs HIV testing week activities across north coast.
‘As with the pop-up testing at Tropical Fruits NYE Festival last year and as chair of the Tropical Fruits GLBTI social club, I am pleased to get behind increased HIV testing services for men in our region. The health of gay men and decreased stigma around HIV is an important issue for Tropical Fruits and the whole Northern Rivers community,’ Mr Beilby said.
Byron Bay men’s clinic will be held on the third Thursday of every month 3-7pm, commencing July 17 at Byron Bay Hospital (enter through emergency). Free STI testing, including rapid HIV testing, is available for men who have sex with men. No appointment is needed. For more info call 6620 2980.