NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner is predicting the “virtual elimination” of HIV transmission by 2020 as the Western NSW Local Health District encourages “at risk” people to get a test.
The health district is encouraging testing at sexual health clinics, GP surgeries, family planning clinics and Aboriginal medical services.
On Thursday, World AIDS Day, Mrs Skinner added to the list the new Dried Blood Spot (DBS) HIV Testing Service.
It allows people to order a test online and take a sample where and when they choose without the need to visit a clinic. The sample is sent back by mail and participants receive their results by phone, text message or email. The government reports that the DBS HIV test is a “free, convenient and private option”.
Mrs Skinner said about seven per cent of about 9800 people in NSW living with HIV were unaware they had the infection.
“We must and will change this,” she said,
Data released by the government on Thursday shows new HIV diagnoses in NSW are at their lowest in four years and testing at an all-time high.
There were only 70 new diagnoses in the third quarter of 2016, a 22 per cent decrease on the average for the same period from the previous six years. Tests at sexual health clinics jumped by 27 per cent as compared with the same period in 2015 and testing of men who had sex with men by 34 per cent. About 92 per cent of people with diagnosed HIV accessing sexual health services were “on treatment”.
Mrs Skinner put the result down to increased testing to detect infections earlier, high treatment coverage, high uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and targeted innovative community education programs.
HIV prevention options were expanded in 2016 with the launch of the EPIC-NSW study of PrEP in March. PrEP involves people without HIV taking treatment drugs daily to prevent them getting it. More than 4000 people at high risk of HIV infection are already involved, exceeding the original study target.
For information on testing and PrEP, go to www.health.nsw.gov.au/endinghiv or call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.