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HIV checks urged as testing falls during COVID

Testing crucial in preventing the transmission of HIV


A poster of a group of people, with the text: ‘preventing HIV’.

A new campaign has been launched to urge people to get checked for HIV, following a drop in testing, during 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

NSW Health data shows HIV laboratory tests in NSW were 15 per cent lower in 2021 than in 2019.

And, home tests via Dried Blood Spot (DBS) dropped by 50 per cent in the last three months of 2021, compared to the previous quarter.

During HIV Testing Week this year, people at risk of HIV are being encouraged to get checked regularly again.

"Now that we are getting out of pandemic lockdowns, it is important that people at risk of HIV return to their routine, regular HIV testing habits," Professor David Templeton, Head of Sexual Health Medicine at Sydney Local Health District, said.

Australia is close to eliminating HIV transmission thanks to its success in diagnosing and treating the virus early, Professor Templeton said.

This allows people to get effective treatment and helps to reduce the risk of the virus being transmitted to others.

"We have high numbers of people at risk of HIV taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP. Just one pill a day prevents them from catching HIV.

"However, certain populations in our community such as recent overseas arrivals and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are missing out. Regular testing for HIV is crucial to reaching our goal of ending HIV by 2030," he said.

The Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service's campaign will target eight priority communities - African, Arabic-speaking, Chinese-speaking, Indonesian, Portuguese-speaking, Spanish-speaking, Thai and Vietnamese communities.

There are a number of HIV testing options available.

HIV testing is free for people with a Medicare card  through GPs who bulk bill.

Temporary visitors to Australia who do not qualify for Medicare can get checked for free at Sexual Health Clinics.

To find a clinic, call Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624 or the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service on 02 9515 1234.

Men who have sex with men can get a rapid HIV test at an a[TEST] clinic. Find an a[TEST] clinic at endinghiv.org.au

Alternatively, people can test themselves at home.

"Dried Blood Spot testing is an easy way for you to get tested for HIV," Barbara Luisi, the District's Director of the Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub, said.

"You can order a free DBS HIV testing kit online, do the test and send it to a laboratory for results. The test results are private and confidential."

DBS testing kits can be ordered from NSW Health at www.dbstest.health.nsw.gov.au