Pharmacists and dental surgeries in Blacktown and Parramatta are being sought to introduce rapid HIV and STI testing on their patients in a survey.
But University of Sydney researchers first want them to participate in a national survey on their support to introduce rapid HIV and STI testing that can speed up the rates of early diagnosis.
The study – the first of its kind in Australia – may help increase the number of people living HIV who know their status.
In NSW, it is estimated that 20-30 percent 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 a recent Australasian HIV and AIDS Conference in Darwin, clinical investigator, Dr Anthony Santella of Westmead, said rapid HIV testing is was being trialled in NSW, Victoria and Queensland but, 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 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.''
It will take about 10 minutes to complete and is anonymous and confidential survey that is open until November 30.
● Indigenous Australians have seen their highest number of new HIV cases in single year since 1992, with 32 new cases recorded in 2012, according to new figures released from the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference in Darwin.
● This is up from an average of 21 cases per annum over the last 10 years.
● The median age of those newly diagnosed also fell from 33 years in 2011 to 27 years in 2012.
● A 10 per cent increase in new HIV infections across Australia in 2012, to 1253 cases: the largest number of new cases in 20 years.
● The most significant rise was in NSW, with an increase of 24 per cent.
● Gonorrhoea levels have also increased substantially to 13,649 cases in 2012 and syphilis rates are close to the highest levels recorded in Australia, with 1,534 diagnoses in 2012.
● Most cases are among men who have sex with men.