The Dubbo Sexual Health clinic has urged people to get tested for HIV as the community prepares to mark World AIDS Day on December 1.
An estimated 10,000 people in NSW are currently living with HIV infection, but it is thought at least 10 per cent of people with the virus don’t know they have it.
“The NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020 [aims] to eliminate new HIV transmissions by 2020 and to do that we need to increase testing,” clinic nursing unit manager Margie Crowley said.
“It’s now considered a manageable chronic health condition and [with treatment] people with HIV will live a normal, healthy life.”
But it is not only homosexual men who are at-risk of contracting HIV, she said.
“Most new infections in 2015 – 81 per cent – were in homosexually active men, but 15 per cent (one in six) were in heterosexual people,” Ms Crowley said.
“Almost a third of [people] were late stage infection, so that’s when their immune system is already quite damaged.
“We want to increase testing. We want to still encourage homosexually active men to get tested but we also want to encourage men and women to get tested if they have behaviours that put them at risk.”
Those considered at-risk included, but were not limited to: people who inject drugs; people from countries where there are high rates of HIV; people who had unprotected sex while travelling; gay and homosexually active men, and; men who identify as heterosexual but who have sex with men.
“It’s important for people to know it has never been easier to get tested for HIV with testing being fast, free and confidential,” Western NSW Local Health District director of population health Dr Therese Jones said.
The local health district and headspace Dubbo are set to mark World Aids Day on Thursday with an information stall at the Church Street Rotunda.
Starting at 11am the teams will be on hand to speak about sexual health and give out World AIDS Day merchandise. They will also host some fun activities to raise awareness of HIV.
To learn more about HIV transmission or to get tested, call the Dubbo Sexual Health clinic on 6841 2489 or speak to your GP.