NSW Health is encouraging people to have a test during HIV Testing Week from June 1-7 with testing now easier and faster than ever before.
Ann Ryan Manager for HIV Aids and Related Programs for Far West Local Health District said around 10 per cent of people with HIV in NSW may be unaware they have the virus, a statistic NSW Health hopes to change.
“As well as risking their own health, people with undiagnosed HIV infection are at risk of passing the virus on to others without knowing,” said Ann.
However, the statistics are improving. The number of HIV tests done in NSW continues to increase with over 500,000 tests conducted in 2016, a seven per cent increase on the number of tests in 2015.
To make testing for HIV easier, the NSW Government has launched the Dried Blood Spot HIV test – a free, easy, private and accurate way to test for HIV at home.
Jo Lenten Clinical Nurse Consultant Sexual Health said HIV testing was easier and faster than ever with a high quality, safe and innovative HIV testing services such as rapid HIV testing as done at the Broken Heel Festival, offering faster results and drop in clinics.
“With almost 10,000 people in NSW living with HIV infection, HIV testing is vital because HIV is often transmitted by people who don’t know they have the virus,” said Jo.
“We need people in groups at risk of HIV to test regularly so they can receive early treatment and prevent transmission of HIV to others.”
Most (82 per cent) new HIV infections reported in 2016 were in gay and homosexually-active men, with heterosexual people accounting for 15 per cent. One third of people newly diagnosed with HIV were diagnosed with signs of late infection, which could have been avoided with earlier testing.
Jo said heterosexual people who may be in an ‘at risk’ group should also be tested.
“This includes people from African and Asian countries, and/or those who have had previous sexual partner from one of these countries. Anyone who has had unprotected sex should also be tested.
“All pregnant women should be tested irrespective of risk, as treatment during pregnancy is very effective in preventing infection from mother to child.
“Achieving high levels of testing, treatment, and maintaining safe sex practices are key if we are to achieve our ambitious target of ending HIV transmission by 2020.
“During HIV Testing Week, we are encouraging people to help end HIV transmission by 2020 by getting tested,” said Jo.
People can request HIV testing at their GP or at the Sexual Health service (Phone 08 8080 1554). During HIV Testing Week the Sexual Health Clinic will be open 7.30-5pm Monday to Thursday.
For information on Dry Blood Spot self-sampling test go to: https://www.hivtest.health.nsw.gov.au/
To find out where to get tested go to: www.health.nsw.gov.au/sexualhealth/pages/sexual-health-clinics.aspx
For more information on HIV testing, treatment and prevention go to www.health.nsw.gov.au/endinghiv/Pages/default.aspx or call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink 1800 451 624 www.shil.nsw.gov.au .
For more information on HIV data in NSW in 2016 go to: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/endinghiv/Documents/q4-2016-annual-hiv-data-report.pdf