Victoria’s Health Department will trial rapid HIV testing in the coming months as new research revealed promising results for the test in Melbourne last week.
Independent rapid HIV test trials have been conducted in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane but the Victorian trial will be the first by a government health department.
Rapid HIV testing involves a finger-prick blood sample with results available within 30 minutes, while conventional testing in Australia requires a larger blood sample and a wait of several days for results.
Sydney and Melbourne’s trial results were presented at the Australasian HIV/AIDS Conference in Melbourne last week; both found gay men overwhelmingly preferred rapid HIV testing (RHT) over conventional testing. The Sydney trial found two thirds of gay men who used RHT said they would test more often if it was available.
Increasing HIV testing was recently identified as one of the top four priorities for Australia in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The latest Australian HIV figures showed new HIV infections rose by eight percent last year, marking the fifth consecutive year with more than 1,000 new cases annually.
Just over 1,000 men joined the Sydney trial with almost 60 percent of participants saying RHT was less stressful than conventional testing.
A Victorian Health Department spokesman confirmed it has been in consultations with the Victorian AIDS Council and other leaders in research and clinical services and a RHT trial was being developed by the department and could begin within months.
Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre executive director Matt Dixon said the trial looked to be focused on gay males.
“We are very excited that the Minister for Health and the Department of Health are moving towards the provision of rapid testing and we are really pleased that they are doing so in consultation with the affected community,” he said.
“Increased testing and early diagnosis is welcome as it means that men are aware of their HIV status earlier thereby reducing the likelihood of HIV transmission and increasing the potential for early treatment.” “We really encourage sexually active men who haven’t ever tested or haven’t tested within the last six months to take control and get tested.”
Melbourne’s trial was conducted at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and Sydney’s trial was conducted in four sites including the Sydney Sexual Health Centre and the Albion Centre.
HIV/AIDS research leaders and peak bodies backed the Melbourne Declaration last week, a memorandum outlining specific actions needed from Australian governments.
RHT is already used around the world, including in Europe and the US.