NSW’s leading HIV prevention organisation, ACON, has launched a new HIV testing service that will support gay men and other men who have sex with men to test for HIV from the comfort of their own home.
The new service, you[TEST], is a convenient and contactless way to test for HIV. The new service allows men to connect with a trained peer via virtual appointment and be provided with information about two different home testing options.
After making a choice between either the HIV self-testing kit or the Dried Blood Spot collection kit, a kit will be mailed out so men can do the test for HIV themselves. The service also offers the option of a follow up chat by phone or video call to provide further information, and referral support if needed.
The new service is free with no Medicare card needed and is available to all gay men and men who have sex with men (cis and trans) living in NSW.
ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill said you[TEST] is all about providing men with a new option to get a HIV test during the time of COVID-19. “We know our communities are engaged when it comes to looking after their sexual health,” said Parkhill.
“But disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made it difficult for some to get tested for HIV. With pressure on frontline health workers, we understand that some local sexual health services have been disrupted, there are reports that some are putting off accessing regular health checks at this time. you[TEST] allows men to continue their HIV testing routine and know their HIV status without having to visit a clinic.”
The new service is a variation on ACON’s successful a[TEST] service, which sees sexual health screening and sexual health information delivered by peers, supported by nurses, in community-based settings.
“Our a[TEST] services remain a very popular way to test for HIV for gay and other men who have sex with men in NSW. Since it was introduced in 2013, tens of thousands of guys have accessed an a[TEST] clinic,” said Parkhill. “This new contactless service will be based on similar principles that have made a[TEST] a success, with clients supported by peers throughout the process.
“Gay and other men who have sex with men in our communities can already access self-testing devices such as HIV home testing kit or the Dried Blood Spot test kit independently.”
“Our new service puts in layers of support to help men overcome barriers such as concern that they don’t know how to use the test kit, fear of a positive result, or avoiding screening due to privacy concerns related to showing up at a clinic. Our you[TEST] service provides added support from a trained peer, and links to follow up care if it is needed across NSW.”
Parkhill said regular testing for HIV is vital because if people don’t know their HIV status, they can’t improve their health or take action to prevent onward transmission but maintaining comprehensive sexual health checks is also important.
“With you[TEST], we are helping men prioritise testing for HIV – wherever they are. However, ACON also recommends people continue to visit their GP or local sexual health clinic when possible for a comprehensive sexual health screen, complete with STI testing,” said Parkhill.
“With ongoing testing, and the use of evidence-based HIV prevention strategies such as condoms, PrEP and undetectable viral load, our communities will continue to drive down new HIV transmissions in NSW.
For more information you[TEST], visit: www.endinghiv.org.au for details.
Image: courtesy of ACON