BRISBANE’S community-based HIV testing service RAPID recently completed its 500th test since opening six months ago.

The peer-based service is staffed by trained community members and offers free HIV and syphilis testing with results in 20 minutes.

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Brisbane Central state Labor MP Grace Grace visited the centre and acknowledged the milestone of 500 tests.

“It is good to see that members of the community are getting the message that early and regular testing is to be encouraged” she said.

RAPID manager Jime Lemoire said RAPID offered a safe place to get tested without judgement on sexual behaviour or injecting practices.

“Rapid HIV testing ‘without the full Q&A’ has been hugely successful in reaching out to those people who are not in a testing routine or do not like attending for sexual health appointments,” he said.

“All our staff are skilled to understand the risk of HIV transmission in the community, and have the experience to know how to provide a respectful space for HIV testing and discussions on how to reduce HIV risk more generally.”

In the December quarter of 2014, 662 rapid HIV tests were done state-wide using kits provided by Queensland Health, with 46 per cent of those tests taking place in a community-based setting.

“It is important for the community to have a range of testing options available to them; some people will go to a GP or sexual health clinic, but others may prefer the peer model offered by Rapid,” Jime said.

HIV Foundation Queensland (HIVFQ) chief executive Tony Majer said RAPID highlighted the importance of community-based testing.

“Our work in relation to making rapid testing more available through community based sites and outreach work is really starting to see results,” he said.

“Taking testing to the community rather than relying on traditional clinical models is a direction we will continue to take this year.”

Queensland Positive People (QPP) executive officer Simon O’Connor said their collaboration with HIVFQ for RAPID was an example of what could be achieved with a strong partnership between government and community.

“Increased access to testing is a core pillar of the Queensland HIV strategy and RAPID has provided a much needed expansion of testing options for the community here in Brisbane,” he said.

Planning is underway for the expansion of QPP’s RAPID program to the Gold Coast in 2015.

RAPID is open Tuesday to Saturday at the HIVFQ’s Winn St premises in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. Details: rapid.org.au

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