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District delivers more easily accessible HIV testing in the community

World AIDS Day

December 2020

District delivers more easily accessible HIV testing in the community

District delivers more easily accessible HIV testing in the community

A free, simple and accurate way to test for HIV and Hep C is now more easily accessible for people who live in Sydney Local Health District.

The HIV and Related Programs (HARP) Unit is the first non-clinical team in the District to be accredited as a Dried Blood Spot (DBS) testing site.

“We identified an opportunity for innovation. It allows us to broaden our outreach to our target groups who live in our community,” Ana Romero, the District’s DBS Coordinator, said.

“We can carry out testing in a variety of settings, including but not limited to community housing, neighbourhood centres, Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) clinics, at the Needle Syringe Program (NSP), homelessness services and pharmacies.

“We have further supported access to HIV and Hep C testing by offering the service to those who may not have a Medicare card. Quite often, community members can’t provide a Medicare card on-the-spot or aren’t eligible for Medicare,” Ms Romero said. 

Today, the District is marking World AIDS Day. It’s dedicated to raising awareness about HIV and AIDS and to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died.

HIV is a virus that can cause AIDS.

The latest data from the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations shows about 28,180 people were living with HIV in Australia at the end of 2018. 

It’s now extremely rare for people living with HIV in Australia to develop AIDS, given the effective testing and treatment strategies.

In the lead-up to World AIDS Day, the HARP Unit held a two-hour drop-in DBS and community engagement event at the Newtown Neighbourhood Centre.

The DBS test involves a few drops of blood collected from a finger prick. It’s free, confidential and relatively pain free.

People were also able to chat with an experienced nurse, who has expertise in prevention, testing and treatment, a peer support worker and the District’s Health Promotion Officers who provided up-to-date resources.

“It’s really great you are doing this. It makes it a lot easier for me,” a client, who attended the DBS testing event at the Neighbourhood Centre, said.

The HARP team is pleased to step-up to help.

“It’s important for people to know if they have HIV or Hepatitis C – for their own health and wellbeing. Testing means those people living with HIV or Hepatitis C can start treatment, improve their health and prevent onward transmission,” Ms Romero said.

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