HIV/AIDS organisation ACON has welcomed the start of the first NSW trial of rapid HIV testing, calling it an important advance in the HIV prevention response in NSW and across Australia.
Rapid HIV tests provide results within 30 minutes and are routinely used in the US, Europe and New Zealand, however rapid tests are not currently available in Australia, where patients have to wait a week or more for results.
Sponsored by the University of NSW’s Kirby Institute, the Sydney-based trial starts this week and involves four sexual health clinics – the Sydney Sexual Health Centre at Sydney Hospital, the Albion Street Centre in Surry Hills, the Parramatta Sexual Health Clinic and Clinic 16 at the Royal North Shore Hospital.
The trial – one of a number currently underway in Australia – is expected to involve up to 1000 men and run for up to six months.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said the recently redrafted National HIV Testing Policy (2011) supports the introduction of rapid HIV testing for the first time and it’s understood that a rapid test has been submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration for licensing approval, which may take some time.
“While it’s great to see these long overdue developments happening, we still don’t have an approved rapid HIV test and so in the meantime the current arrangements for testing still apply,” Parkhill said.
“The existing arrangements for HIV testing act as a barrier to testing for many gay men because they’re time-consuming, inconvenient and involve what can seem like a long wait when you’re hanging out for results.
“The experience of rapid testing overseas shows that access to testing that’s quick, cheap and convenient encourages more gay men to get tested, and improving access to testing is essential for reducing HIV transmission rates because knowing your HIV status enables you to take action that reduces the risk of passing on the virus.”
ACON is encouraging gay men in Sydney to get involved in the trial because of the importance of being able to assess the performance of the test in clinical settings as well as its acceptability to clients and clinical staff.
“With the help of gay men, we’re confident the trial will provide the evidence we need to get rapid HIV testing up and running throughout Australia in the near future.”
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