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Dr Eva Jackson
Dr Eva Jackson

HIV testing key to early diagnosis

28 Nov 2018


With almost half of all people diagnosed with HIV in the late stage of infection, NSW Health is urging those at risk to be regularly tested.

In the lead up to World AIDS Day on 1 December, NSW Health is reminding people to test for HIV with various high quality HIV testing options now available.

In 2018-19, NSW Health is investing $21.9 million in services to strengthen HIV testing, treatment and prevention. NSW is on track to achieving its goal of virtually eliminating HIV transmission by 2020, with a 23 per cent drop in the number of new diagnoses in NSW.

“Anyone at risk of HIV is urged to get tested regularly,” says Dr Eva Jackson, Clinical Director of the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District Sexual Health & HIV Clinics.

“Starting treatment early not only improves your health, it can prevent the virus from being passed on to others.”

From January to September 2018, 191 NSW residents presented with a newly diagnosed HIV infection compared with 249 during the same period in 2013-2017, according to the NSW HIV Data Report.

“The fall in the number of people diagnosed with HIV infection is due to more people being tested early and getting treatment, as well as the introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP),” says Dr Jackson.

PrEP, the use of medications to prevent HIV in those at risk, is also used traditionally to treat the infection.

The highly successful NSW Health EPIC-NSW trial made PrEP available to 9,414 people at risk of HIV from 1 March 2016 to 30 April 2018.

It is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for doctors to prescribe.

The data also shows from January to September 2018 there were 42 per cent fewer Australian-born men having sex with men diagnosed with early stage HIV infection, compared to the same period over the past five years.

HIV in overseas-born men who have sex with men as well as heterosexual men who have sex overseas, are often diagnosed late, which can lead to avoidable HIV-related illness.

Dr Jackson encourages anyone at risk of HIV to seek testing by a trusted doctor or clinic and visit the NSW Health Ending HIV site for further information on how to access free, confidential testing.