Opening its doors on February 10, the a[TEST] facility at 118 Oxford St will be open until March 22 and will provide test results within 30 minutes.
The opening of the latest site comes on the back of a successful and similar facility at Taylor Square that coincided with World AIDS Day last year and saw over 200 people use the free service over five days, meaning one rapid test was conducted every seven minutes during its hours of operation.
Launching the new pop-up site today, Coogee state Liberal MP and NSW Government spokesperson on LGBTI issues Bruce Notley-Smith said the initiative was part of ACON’s Test More promotion, which was the latest stage of the Ending HIV campaign that aims to help eliminate the transmission of the virus from NSW by 2020.
“ACON’s new Test More education campaign coupled with this new free testing service during Mardi Gras are great examples of the innovative approach that we’re taking in relation to ending HIV transmission in NSW by the end of the decade,” Notley-Smith said.
“During NSW’s annual celebration of LGBTI communities and culture, I encourage gay men to help us reach this goal by testing more regularly, either at the new a[TEST] Oxford St service, other rapid testing centres around NSW, or their local sexual health clinic or GP.”
ACON President Mark Orr said it was estimated that up to 30 per cent of HIV cases remained undiagnosed and initiatives such as the new pop-up rapid HIV testing site were an attempt to reach such people.
“Once people know their status, they can take action to improve their health outcomes and prevent passing on the virus,” he said.
“And the only way they can know their status is to get tested regularly, at least twice a year. Clearly it’s a numbers game and we won’t be able to achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in NSW by the end of the decade unless we significantly increase testing rates among gay men – it’s that simple.”
Meanwhile, the latest Sydney Gay Community Periodic Survey compiled late last month and early February saw ACON for the first time team with the COUNT project, which aims to find out how many gay and bisexual men have HIV – including men who don’t know they’re infected.
After completing the survey, participants were given an option to provide a saliva sample for the COUNT project, with the samples able to be given anonymously if so desired.
“Despite making a major contribution to ongoing transmissions, we know very little about factors associated with undiagnosed HIV,” lead investigator Professor Martin Holt said.
“For the first time we will get a national snapshot of HIV prevalence in the gay community – among both those aware and unaware of their infection. The information we get from COUNT will help inform many aspects of HIV prevention in Australia, including targeted strategies to increase testing and reduce the number of men with undiagnosed HIV.”
INFO: a[TEST], 118 Oxford St, Darlinghurst from February 10-March 22. Open Monday-Saturday between 11am-7pm. Walk-ins welcome, appointments can be made via www.atest.org.au
[Image] South East Sydney Local Health District CEO Terry Clout, NSW HIV Strategy Implementation Committee Chair Bill Whittaker, ACON President Mark Orr, Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich and ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill (Supplied)