RAPID HIV testing has launched in Bendigo, letting locals get a test result in just 20 minutes.

The free new testing service debuted on Friday to coincide with Pride Week in Bendigo. The service is run by LGBTI peers and available to gay and bi men who are at risk of contracting HIV.

Rapid testing uses a finger prick test to give results in 20 minutes, eliminating the need to wait days for pathology results.

The new service for Bendigo is an initiative of VACountry.

Coordinator Harry McAnulty said the rapid HIV testing service “broke down barriers” for people afraid of judgement about testing.

“We know a lot of gay and bisexual men have a fear of attending medical-based services—a fear of homophobia,” he said.

“Being able to talk to a peer—somebody who has the same lived experience as yourself—addresses that.”

People can also have a full STI screen to test for other infections.

“Rapid testing is a useful tool, but having a full screening is really important,” said McAnulty.

Three new HIV diagnoses have been recorded in Bendigo so far this year, a number McAnulty says is low but doesn’t mean people are not at risk of HIV.

VACountry and Bendigo Community Health Services are also overseeing a PrEP trial for Bendigo.

Rapid testing is available at VACountry headquarters on Myers Street. Locals can phone 0437 004 680 to make an appointment.

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