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District runs pop-up HIV testing clinic

Pop-up clinic aims to boost HIV testing in vulnerable communities.

Three women wearing masks holding HIV testing materials
SydneyConnect Image: HIV and Related Programs (HARP) Unit

Sydney Local Health District partnered with national charity Mission Australia to run a pop-up HIV testing clinic this week at a special complex in Camperdown that provides accommodation for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

The clinic was run by the HIV and Related Programs (HARP) Unit – the first non-clinical team in the District to be accredited as a Dried Blood Spot (DBS) testing site – at Common Ground Sydney.

“We’re working to increase the uptake of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) testing and treatment among vulnerable community members who may not be connected with mainstream health care services,” Susan McGuckin, a Health Promotion Officer with the HARP Unit, said.

Common Ground Sydney is a residential unit block that provides accommodation for long term homeless people and people who are on low to moderate incomes in inner Sydney.

Residents receive support from on-site case managers who collaborate with them to help improve their physical, mental and social wellbeing.

During the pop-up clinic, residents were offered a DBS test which is a free, simple and accurate way to test for HIV and Hep C. It involves a few drops of blood collected from a finger prick.

A Medicare card isn’t required to be tested.

“Vulnerable people may face barriers accessing mainstream HIV and HCV testing. Sometimes, they don’t have a Medicare card or are ineligible for Medicare. You don’t need a Medicare card to be tested at our clinics – which is one of the benefits,” Ms McGukin said.

Health care workers will later advise on the results and treatment, if needed. Residents may be referred to the District’s Gastro and Liver Services, the Sexual Health Clinic or their local GP.

Residents were also able to chat with a peer support worker and the HARP Unit’s Health Promotion Officers who provided up-to-date resources about prevention, testing and treatment.

The HARP Unit has run DBS testing at community housing, neighbourhood centres, Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) clinics, at the Needle Syringe Program (NSP), homelessness services and pharmacies.

DBS is a pilot research project set up in partnership with the NSW Ministry of Health, St Vincent’s Hospital and NSW Sexual Health InfoLink.

This week’s clinic follows HIV Testing Week which aims to encourage people who may have been at risk of HIV to ask for a HIV test – with a push for testing to become a routine part of health care.

For more information about DBS testing, please visit https://www.dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au