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Local doctors offer rapid HIV testing early
Prahran Market Clinic (PMC) began running rapid HIV testing as of Wednesday, using the Alere Determine Combo HIV 1/2 Ag/Ab test which was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration last December.
Rapid HIV tests reduce waiting time on results from several days to just 30 minutes and only require a pin-prick of blood rather than a full blood sample.
It is already used worldwide and has been tested in Australia as part of clinical trials, including one at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, but PMC is believed to be the first to access it commercially.
PMC director and co-owner Dr Beng Eu told the Star Observer that the clinic just wanted to get the ball rolling on rapid testing in Australia.
“We did not set out to be the first clinic to use it, we just wanted to use it quickly since it is available because I think it puts the whole thing of about HIV testing back on the agenda,” he said.
Since the test was approved by the TGA last year, Eu said it had been unclear who could actually use it. PMC were able to go ahead and order the kits several weeks ago after completing the usual regulatory procedures.
He said he hoped the new kits reduced anxiety among waiting patients and would also help increase testing rates.
The Melbourne Declaration, a set of goals formed by HIV/AIDS-related organisations last year to reduce HIV infections in Australia by half by 2015, called on governments to increase rates of testing.
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre chair Michael Williams welcomed the news and encouraged other sexual health practices in Victoria to do the same.
“This will provide clients of PMC and those in the area the choice to receive rapid testing when they want it,” he said.
“VAC/GMHC is still working with Burnet to start its rapid testing trial, so the more clinics which can offer rapid testing now, the better.”
Each test is smaller than a highlighter pen, thin like cardboard and costs about $20.
For the time being, the cost will be passed onto patients, although Eu said there was speculation about federal government subsidies for the tests in future.
In January, Victorian health minister David Davis announced the state’s pilot rapid HIV testing service would start by July 2013.