As Australia continues to move towards rapid HIV testing, doctors in private clinics are starting to see the positive impact on LGBTI people as the community waits for the rollout of government-funded testing to continue.
Prahran Market Clinic introduced rapid HIV testing in March this year — the procedure takes around 30 minutes, significantly less than the week required for a full HIV test in a pathology lab. Almost five months after introducing rapid testing, Dr Beng Eu is happy with the results.
“It’s actually been really reliable—we’ve done about 270 tests to date, and we’ve had about seven or eight HIV-positive results, but we haven’t had any false results at all, which we were actually expecting based on previous experience from other clinics,” Eu told the Star Observer.
While health professionals hope rapid testing leads to increased HIV screening, Eu said it was difficult to know at this early stage whether the process is changing people’s behaviour, but anecdotal evidence was encouraging.
“It’s hard to analyse it, but a substantial number of our rapid tests are on people who have never been to the clinic, so they’re coming in just for rapid testing. Because we’ve been doing it for a few months we’ve had quite a few who are coming back again after three months to have another rapid test again,” Eu explained.
Rapid HIV tests have also been introduced at Era Health Clinic in Melbourne in the last few weeks, and Dr George Forgan-Smith said the test helped alleviate the anxiety of waiting for results in some patients.
“I’ve been offering it in an opportunistic way, so people who are asking for sexual screening I say, have you considered a rapid HIV test. So we’ve picked up a few people that way, and they’re quite pleased with the ability to get a result in the same day,” Forgan-Smith told the Star Observer.
Forgan-Smith explained that while the test is a way to exclude HIV outside of an initial six-week window following possible exposures and not a test to diagnose HIV, rapid testing is still an important move forward for sexual health screening.
“Ideally we’d love people to be able to get all of their results in one appointment, but that’s not feasible at this point,” he said.
“I think the rapid HIV test is a great start, but rapid syphilis, Hep B, Hep C and gonorrhoea would be better.”