HIV testing key to ending transmission

Get treatment: Mid North Coast Local Health District manager HIV and Related Programs Jenny Heslop says once a person is diagnosed with HIV, they should start treatment as soon as possible

Get treatment: Mid North Coast Local Health District manager HIV and Related Programs Jenny Heslop says once a person is diagnosed with HIV, they should start treatment as soon as possible

One in six people diagnosed with HIV in NSW reports heterosexual exposure and at least 10 per cent of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus and could unknowingly pass it onto others.

These are the surprising statistics that Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) hopes will prompt more people to get tested for HIV.

MNCLHD Manager HIV and Related Programs Jenny Heslop said once a person is diagnosed with HIV, they should start treatment as soon as possible to improve their own health, and by being more informed about living with the virus, reduce the possibility of passing it on to others. 

“With the highly effective treatments available today, a person with HIV who is on treatment can expect a near-normal life expectancy and a healthy life,” Ms Heslop said.

“Health professionals now view and treat HIV like any other chronic manageable condition.”

In the week leading up to World AIDS Day on 1 December, health professionals across NSW are encouraging people who believe they may have placed themselves ‘at risk’ of HIV at some point in their life to be tested.

In addition to encouraging gay and homosexually active men to continue regular testing, NSW Health is also encouraging the following groups to get a test:

Heterosexual men and women with behaviours putting them at risk of HIV e.g. men who identify as heterosexual but who have sex with men,  or people who inject drugs 

People from countries where there are high rates of HIV and people who have had unprotected sex while travelling.

“Many new HIV infections come from people who do not know that they have HIV, so testing is essential to reducing HIV transmission,” Ms Heslop said.

“It’s important for people to know that it has never been easier to get tested.”

“There’s now a variety of high quality, confidential, safe and innovative HIV testing services available, including drop-in clinics offering faster results and after-hours services.”

The Dry Blood Spot (DBS) HIV testing program is a new program operational in NSW.

Through the DBS program, men who have sex with men, people from African and Asian countries, or people who have had a sexual or injecting partner from one of these countries are now able to order a free DBS HIV test kit and have it posted to a location of their choice by going to the DBS HIV test website www.hivtest.health.nsw.gov.au.

In the lead up to and on World AIDS Day the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour and the Glass House at Port Macquarie will both be glowing red. This is to remind people that HIV is still here and to remember all who have lost their lives to the virus since 1982.   

HIV facts

About 10,000 people in NSW have HIV. Most new HIV infections reported in 2015 were in homosexually active men (81 per cent) with heterosexual exposure accounting for 15 per cent of all newly reported infections. Almost a third (29 per cent) of people were diagnosed at a late stage of infection.

Sixty-four per cent of HIV diagnoses in NSW in 2015 were made by services other than sexual health clinics. Forty-seven per cent of those diagnoses were made by GPs.

Peak professional bodies such as The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine and Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association support the campaign for more HIV testing among a diverse range of patient groups.

HIV testing is available at a range of different health services including, GPs, Family Planning Clinics,  Aboriginal Medical Services, Sexual health clinics, and, Pop-Up Rapid HIV testing sites.

For confidential information on where to get a HIV test people can call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

In the lead up to World AIDS Day visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/hiv-test

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