RapidTesting_HeROBendigo residents now have access to rapid HIV testing through a private clinic, with hopes the new technology will improve testing rates in the regional city and surrounding areas.

Rapid HIV testing drastically reduces the waiting time for results from several days to under 30 minutes and only needs a pin-prick of blood.

Dr Benj Tarsh is offering the service through an outreach clinic by Prahran Market Clinic held at Bendigo Primary Care Centre.

The pre-book service will only be offered on Thursday afternoons and evenings and is considered to be the first regional service in Australia to offer this new technology.

Last year, one particular rapid test was approved for use by Australian authorities.

The Victorian and Queensland state governments have announced plans to roll-out the tests this year but Melbourne-based Prahran Market Clinic started offering the tests in March.

Tarsh said he believed there was a desperate need for good sexual health services in regional areas, where the services were not as strong as they were in metropolitan centres.

“To offer something like this where they don’t have to go to Melbourne to get the test and get a response rapidly I think is desperately needed,” he told the Star Observer.

It’s also hoped the rapid HIV testing will encourage further sexual health testing for other sexually-transmitted infections like chlmaydia and gonorrhea.

He said people who lived up to 100km away from Bendigo were interested in the weekly service.

The Country Awareness Network (CAN) is a Bendigo-based organisation that provides information and advocates for strong sexual health services in regional and rural areas.

CAN CEO Adam Wright said they were delighted rapid testing would be available locally.

“It’s still a major issue of ours and by having the rapid test available, hopefully more people will get tested,” he said.

“Studies have shown early treatment is very effective, so knowing your HIV status besides being beneficial for the individual, it’s beneficial for the whole community.”

He agreed rapid testing would be important in making HIV testing more accessible for people living in regional areas outside of Bendigo since they could get their results swiftly.

“It can sometimes be a real hassle taking a couple of buses and a couple of trains to get to Melbourne to access some of the services – it could be easier for some of those in rural areas to get to Bendigo, so it’s very exciting.”

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