Pharmacists and dental surgeries in Blacktown and Parramatta are being sought to introduce rapid HIV and STI testing on their patients.
But University of Sydney researchers first want them to take part in a national survey on their support of the idea.
The study – the first of its kind in Australia – may help increase the number of people living with HIV to be aware of their condition.
In NSW, it is estimated that 20-30 per cent of those living with HIV are undiagnosed and possibly spreading the virus.
The new test screens for HIV antibodies, giving a result within 20 minutes.
A positive result still requires a blood test for confirmation, but there is an almost immediate indication – as opposed to waiting more than 24 hours.
Speaking from the Australasian HIV and AIDS Conference in Darwin this week, clinical investigator, Anthony Santella, from Westmead, said rapid HIV testing was now being trialled in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
But, he said, compared to other parts of the world, Australia had been slow to approve and implement rapid testing.
“Community pharmacies and dental surgeries, with their recognised trust and expertise, close links to local populations and widespread geographical distribution, can provide a high quality, safe and readily accessible location for HIV and STI testing,’’ he said. “It also represents an opportunity for pharmacists and dentists to expand their existing public health role.
“HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are often undiagnosed or diagnosed late because of the stigma associated with them, their often asymptomatic nature, and the limited number of testing providers, particularly for marginalised and at-risk populations.
“In Australia, it is estimated that one in five people with HIV are not aware of their infection, and are likely to be transmitting the virus to their sexual partners.
‘‘People with HIV are most infectious to others in the immediate period following initial acquisition of the virus, and thus easy access to regular testing is becoming increasingly recognised as an important public health strategy.’’
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and is anonymous and confidential.
It is open until November 30.