GAY men are increasingly preferring to have sexual health check-up tests done by peers in community-operated spaces, according to figures released by ACON to mark HIV Testing Week (June 1 – 7).

Through its network of HIV testing sites across Sydney and NSW, ACON has provided almost 4000 rapid HIV tests over the last two years, with 1000 of these being conducted at the new a[TEST] Oxford St site in Sydney in just the last three months.

Operated in partnership with Local Health Districts, ACON’s community-based testing facilities are staffed by gay men and are in easily-accessible places.

ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill said making HIV testing fast, free, convenient and culturally-appropriate has been the key to the success of community-based testing.

“The latest data from the NSW Ministry of Health shows that HIV testing has continued to increase both overall in NSW and among high risk populations,” he said.

“In fact, the figures show that 76 per cent of gay men in Sydney had an HIV test in the last 12 months, the highest figure since this data started being collected in 1996. This is very encouraging and it demonstrates that increasing testing options leads to increased testing rates.”

Parkhill commended the gay community for heeding the call to help end HIV by testing more often.

“Once people know their HIV status, they can take action to improve their health outcomes and prevent passing on the virus,” he said.

“The importance of testing has also been reinforced by the release of the START study, which has provided the most conclusive scientific evidence yet that if you have HIV you should consider starting treatment immediately, as delaying treatment can have a serious impact on the long term health of an HIV positive person.”

ACON is supporting HIV Testing Week with the following initiatives:

Easy Tour

The Easy Tour is a series of community concerts featuring Australian Idol alumni Kate DeAraugo, Paulini and Emily Williams as well as Olympic champion Matthew Mitcham.

The free shows are designed to promote testing and nearby testing sites in Surry Hills, Bondi, Newtown, Campbelltown, Parramatta, Wollongong and Newcastle. Enjoy the music and help spread the testing message by tweeting or posting photos on Instagram from this event using #endinghiv. For details, visit: www.endinghiv.org.au/nsw

Sydney (Thu 4 + Fri 5 June)

Late night testing until 9pm at the a[TEST] site at 167 Oxford St, Darlinghurst.

Lismore (Sat 6 June, 1pm – 6pm)

Pop-up rapid testing clinic with ACON peer educators and a free sausage sizzle. Lismore Sexual Health Service, 4 Shepherd Lane, Lismore.

Newcastle (June 1 – 5)

Drop in rapid HIV testing at the Pacific Clinic as well as ACON’s office In Newcastle

Pacific Clinic (Lv 2, 670 Hunter St, Newcastle): 1 – 5 June

ACON Hunter (129 Maitland Rd, Islington) – Tue 2, 3:30pm – 6:30pm + Thu 4, 9:30am – 3:30pm

Wollongong (Thu 4 June, 5:30 – 9pm)

‘Easy Tour’ Wollongong (Crown Street mall / Eatstreetmarkets)

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