This HIV Awareness Week, and in the lead up to World AIDS Day on Wednesday, Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, is encouraging people across the area at risk of HIV to get tested.
As NSW opens up, it is a good time for the community to speak to a healthcare professional about HIV testing and prevention options available to them.
NSW Health, Chief Health Officer, Dr Kerry Chant said the state has made great progress in the virtual elimination of the virus however testing rates are down from last year, driven by the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve come a long way over the last 40 years and have many new tools to help prevent HIV transmission including effective HIV treatment, condoms, sterile injecting equipment, and prevention medication – PrEP,” Dr Chant said.
“Early testing and diagnosis linked to treatment prevents transmission and enables people living with HIV to enjoy a long and healthy life.”
From January to September 2021, 141 NSW residents were diagnosed with HIV, a decrease of 31% compared to the average for the last five years. This decline was likely driven by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and restricted movement, as people remained at home.
Associate Professor Katherine Brown from the Illawarra Shoalhaven Sexual Health Service said:
“As we start to open up, it is essential that at risk people get tested now. People can get tested easily and confidentially at their local GP or sexual health service. Online and home-based testing options include Dried Blood Spot test, a free finger prick test which is mailed to you, and ATOMO self-test kits will be available in pharmacies soon,” Dr Brown said.
The NSW HIV Strategy 2021-2025 aims to achieve a 90 per cent reduction in the rate of preventable HIV infection to achieve the virtual elimination of HIV transmission in NSW.
In 2021-22 the NSW Government is investing $23.7 million in services to strengthen HIV testing, treatment, and prevention.