As many as 10 per cent of people with HIV in NSW may be unaware they have the virus, says Jenny Heslop, north coast manager of HARP (HIV and Related Programs).
And a third of people diagnosed with the disease showed signs of late infection that could have been avoided with earlier testing.
As the battle against HIV continues, the focus is increasingly on people who assume that they don’t have the virus.
HIV testing week
So Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) using HIV Testing Week (June 1-7), to let people know that testing now easier and faster than ever before.
‘As well as risking their own health, people with undiagnosed HIV infection are at risk of passing the virus on to others without knowing,’ Ms Heslop said.
To make testing for HIV easier, the NSW Government has launched the Dried Blood Spot HIV test – a free, easy, private and accurate way to test for HIV at home.
Ms Heslop said innovative HIV testing services such as rapid HIV testing and express clinics, made testing and receiving results easier and quicker than ever.
‘With almost 10,000 people in NSW living with HIV infection, HIV testing is vital because HIV is often transmitted by people who don’t know they have the virus,’ Ms Heslop said.
‘During HIV Testing Week, we are encouraging people to help end HIV transmission by 2020 by getting tested,’ Ms Heslop said.
Test regularly, treat early
‘We need people in groups at risk of HIV to test regularly so they can receive early treatment and prevent transmission of HIV to others.’
Most (82 per cent) new HIV infections reported in 2016 were in gay and homosexually-active men, with heterosexual people accounting for 15 per cent.
Ms Heslop said heterosexual people who may be in an ‘at risk’ group should also be tested.
‘This includes people from African and Asian countries, and/or those who have had previous sexual partner from one of these countries. Anyone who has had unprotected sex should also be tested.
‘All pregnant women should be tested irrespective of risk, as treatment during pregnancy is very effective in preventing infection from mother to child.
People can request HIV testing at their GP or health service. There are also specialised sexual health clinics located in Lismore, Tweed Heads, Byron and Grafton.