Rapid testing pilot for Victoria

  • The Victorian Minister for Health, David Davis recently announced a pilot rapid HIV testing service.
  • Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre welcomes this announcement with great enthusiasm.
  • This pilot will be developed by a partnership of the Department of Health Victoria, the Burnet Institute and the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre. The partners are planning to have the service up and running by July 2013.

Full details are yet to be developed, but we at VAC/GMHC are hoping for the following details to be agreed:

  • The pilot site will be in the community in a standalone shopfront, possibly in Melbourne’s inner north or inner south, depending on our research amongst community members and an analysis of HIV prevalence and testing data. We want it to be where the gay men at greatest risk of HIV can access it easily.
  • A key feature will be providing an atmosphere in which gay men (where ¾ of Victoria’s HIV epidemic is focussed) feel very welcome and ‘at home’. This will be supported by having peer workers (a mix of paid staff and volunteers) providing the service, which will probably be overseen by an experienced HIV and sexual health nurse. Appropriate pre and post test discussions will be part of the service, as well as referrals to medical and sexual health services as needed. We will also be able to refer clients to our counselling service to follow up on any psychological and emotional issues they’d like to address further, either one to one or in a group.
  • We are hoping to open the walk in service on evenings and weekends, to make it as easy as possible to use. It’s all about access and convenience.
  • We will be monitoring rates of testing for other sexually transmissible infections, as we realise that there is a possibility that gay men could miss out on their regular STI testing if they only present for HIV rapid testing (which is also likely to include rapid Syphilis testing as well).

Other points of interest

  • Rapid testing is routine in most of the world. With up to 30% of people with HIV in Victoria unaware that they have the virus, this new tool will really help increase access to testing, reducing the amount of undiagnosed HIV in our community.
  • People with HIV take great care to make sure that the virus is not passed on (but let’s never forget that this is everyone’s responsibility-not just people with HIV).
  • If you know you have HIV, you can get support and start thinking about treatments.
  • With the amount of testing increasing, we expect to see numbers of new notifications also increasing, as we identify that group of undiagnosed HIV positive men. We hope it will be understood that this is actually a good thing, as it will help us truly drive down HIV infection rates over coming years, as there will be fewer undiagnosed infections in our community.

This news article is available for download as a PDF.

ABC-TV news on 13 January featured VAC/GMHC while reporting the announcement by the Health Minister that rapid testing trials would start soon in Victoria.