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Byron Shire
February 1, 2023

Would you like a sausage with your HIV test?

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Here in the Byron Shire our crisis is so famous it’s made international news. It’s been in the US Rolling Stone even. It’s been in documentaries. It’s been in The Guardian. It’s what we live with here – every day. We live in a community where there is nowhere to live and the whole world is watching what we do next, wondering if we will do what their super star tourist destinations did and regulate the housing market. People in places like Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Miami found out that tough regulations actually aren’t bad for business after all. That’s just property market profiteering propaganda.

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Lismore Sexual Health Service has come up with a novel way to encourage people to take their HIV tests: offer them a free sausage.

In collaboration with ACON Northern Rivers it will be hosting a BBQ and rapid HIV testing on Saturday (June 6) at Lismore Sexual Health Service in the lead-up to the Tropical Fruits Dance party that night.

Gay and homosexually active men are especially encouraged to take part in the ‘pop-up’ testing opportunity as around 10 per cent of HIV positive people in NSW may be unaware they are infected.

And despite the air of frivolity, it is  one of the rare occasions to be able to take a rapid HIV test on the northern rivers, after a trial program of rapid testing finished at the end of last year.

‘Rapid’ testing delivers results within half an hour, as opposed to waiting up to two weeks for a regular HIV test result.

Jenny Heslop, Manager of North Coast HIV & Related Programs said ‘We need to keep HIV testing on the agenda and not become complacent. It is equally important for regional communities to remain focussed and not think HIV is only a matter for larger cities and metropolitan areas’.

‘We know there are around 10,500 people in living in NSW who have been diagnosed with HIV infection,’ Ms Heslop said.

‘Increasing testing rates is vital because HIV is generally transmitted by people who don’t know they have been exposed to HIV and haven’t recently been tested. During HIV Testing Week, we are encouraging people to check their HIV status by attending a local Sexual Health Clinic or GP,’ Ms Heslop explained.

NSW chief medical officer, Dr Chant, said most infections reported in 2014 were in gay and homosexually-active men (79 per cent) with heterosexual cases accounting for 14 per cent.

In 2014, HIV testing has increased both overall in NSW and among high-risk groups but more needs to be done’.

As well as gay men, heterosexual people who may be at risk of HIV should be tested. This includes people from countries, where there are high rates of HIV infection and anyone who has 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 testing, treatment, and maintaining safe sex practices are the key if we are to achieve our ambitious target of ending HIV,’ Dr Chant said.

The rapid HIV test and BBQ is at Lismore Sexual Health Service (formerly SHAIDS) is at 4 Shepherd Lane, Lismore from from 1pm to 5pm. Phone (02) 6620 2980 for more information.

HIV testing is available daily (Monday to Friday) without booking but please not rapid HIV testing will only be available at the pop-up clinic next Saturday.

For more information on HIV testing, treatment and prevention call 1800 451 624 or go to http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/endinghiv

 


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