health

Rapid HIV tests: Doctor warns screening should be backed up by full blood test for other STIs.

Image via ABC.

There has been a big surge in the number of men having rapid HIV tests since the 20-minute test was made available in Australia’s major cities.

In Queensland this month, the HIV Foundation is expanding the popular service to the Gold Coast.

But some doctors are warning the rapid screening should be backed up with a full blood test and they say more work needs to be done to increase screening for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

RELATED: Young Australian women are contracting HIV overseas.

Dr Ryan Williams spends one night a week volunteering at a gay sex club in Brisbane’s CBD. The club’s staff help promote the sexual health service to clients.

“It’s the hook that I think for many people is like ‘well, I probably should get myself checked out. It’s been a while, I had a couple of partners’,” he said.

“A lot of people come in and say ‘I just need the old grease and oil change, doc’, which is sexual health code for ‘please check me for everything’.”

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The increasing availability of rapid HIV testing has made it possible to offer a check-up in just 20 minutes.

“We put the rapid test on to cook, to quote unquote, and we let it sit there and while it’s cooking I then sit there with the patient. We then go through when was your last sexual health test,” Dr Williams said.

Prior to the rapid HIV test being made available in 2013, the rates of HIV testing had been decreasing.

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Dr Williams also works at Clinic 30, run by the Queensland AIDS Council (QAC).

“Last Tuesday night was hectic. We had 20 patients through in two hours with just one doctor and two nurses so that was the definition of hectic,” he said.

Patient Chris said it was good to see so many other people being tested and all the resources being made available.

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“It was really good to have that community aspect and get all that information when I needed it,” he said. “I think I’ve seen lines coming out the doors which I guess is a positive message and people are definitely taking part. It’s good to see, it does get congested sometimes.”

Push for more services after funding cuts

The former Queensland Government made significant cuts to the state’s sexual health services.

Brisbane’s main sexual health clinic lost funding and the government instead started a HIV foundation which focuses focuses on awareness and HIV prevention, as well as rapid testing and treatment.

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“Since the previous government, since they defunded the Queensland Aids Council, I think the focus on gay men has drifted away,” said Rob Lake, head of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations.

He said the State Government needed to offer more services.

“It’s really important to do comprehensive sexual health work, because we focus a lot on HIV but in terms of HIV transmission it’s also important to be aware of other STIs,” he said.

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Dr Williams said at Clinic 30 clients were encouraged not to have the rapid test in isolation.

“We have had a gentleman who tested negative on the rapid test but his blood test came back as positive so we generally encourage people have the rapid test so you’ve got your answer tonight but it’s much better that you have the actual full blood test,” he said.

Patient Chris is now a volunteer with the service and said while the rapid test was not perfect, it was encouraging more people to talk about sexual health.

“I think so, like I think the numbers are quite strong at QAC and with the rapid HIV testing we can obviously do a lot more testing with that.”

This article was originally published on the ABC. View the original here.

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