Just a couple of weeks ago we were talking in this column about the soon-to-open Rapid HIV Testing centre. Here at the Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre and The Burnet Institute, we were pretty excited and looked forward to the launch with growing anticipation. Well, the launch date has come and gone and this new service is now open for business under the catchy name: PRONTO!
‘Pronto’ means quick and easy in a wide variety of languages, including English, and this is exactly how this new service operates. Most of the guys attending appointments are in and out in 30 minutes. The actual test takes around ten minutes for a result, with the remaining time made up of a pre and post-test discussion with the test facilitator. These guys are peers to the guys they will be screening for HIV: employed from within the gay community and who have had extensive training in conducting the test and understanding the result. Gone are the days of that anxious wait when you were lucky to get a result from a HIV test in under a week! It is important to understand that with all HIV screening, this test is for the window period: the time it takes for HIV to replicate within the body enough so that it will show up in an HIV screening test. This window period is generally understood to be between 8-12 weeks.
The industrial heritage building the centre is located in used to house a factory that made chocolate bars, with the original walls of the building intact. This is a space that has been simply but well designed to make it a friendly space with handy opening hours, allowing men the chance to make an appointment via the website for a visit on their way home from work or whilst they are doing the Saturday shopping. On weekdays PRONTO! is open Tuesday to Friday from 10am until 8pm and on Saturdays from 1pm to 5pm. We are closed on Sunday and Monday. The use of this service is free and the building has free Wi-Fi available. Whilst PRONTO! currently offers free HIV screening, there are future plans to enhance the testing to include a broader range of sexually transmitted infections. Located at 175 Rose Street in Fitzroy, PRONTO! is located close to a tram stop in the quieter end of Smith Street, at stop 20 on the 86 tram route. Like all services where HIV testing is undertaken confidentiality is assured. If you would like additional information check out the website: www.pronto.org.au or call 9416 2889.
Tex McKenzie is a Health Educator with the Victorian AIDS Council