People would only need to wait 30 minutes for HIV results and provide a finger-prick blood sample, if the Victorian Government trials rapid HIV testing.
State Health Minister David Davis recently announced the Ministerial Advisory Committee for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Health would investigate different HIV testing methods, including rapid testing.
Rapid testing reduces waiting times to 30 minutes, down from the current several days or even weeks.
The method is routinely used in Europe, the United States and New Zealand. Queensland and New South Wales have started trials.
The Burnet Institute’s head of the HIV and Sexual Health Program in the Centre for Population Health, Dr Mark Stoové, told the Star Observer rapid testing would be appealing for gay men because it was more convenient.
Stoové said sexually active gay men needed to be tested at least once a year but high-risk groups such as gay men with multiple sexual partners or those who visited sex-on-premises venues were expected to have two to four tests annually.
“Men would have to book up to four clinic appointments per year, one to get the test and one to return for the results,” he said.
Stoové said the Victorian AIDS Council/ Gay Men’s Health Centre was the best outlet for trialling rapid testing.
Victorian AIDS Council CEO Matt Dixon said rapid testing was a “highly promising approach”.
“The benefit of rapid testing is that it removes some of the barriers to frequent testing for the people who may be at greater risk of having HIV,” Dixon said.
Dixon said people living with HIV, who knew their HIV status, were generally more proactive about preventing further HIV transmission.
Sexual health physician Tim Read and the team at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre have been trialling different testing methods, including rapid testing, for the past 18 months.
He said trial results were not ready but patient follow-up rates so far were reassuring in both regular and rapid HIV testing.
However, Read said all tests gave occasional false-positive results and warned of the implications of making someone wait for several days for laboratory confirmation after a rapid test.