Increasing the rates of voluntary HIV testing is essential to Australia realising its goal of virtual elimination of HIV transmissions by 2020. Increasing access to HIV testing is supported across a number of strategic documents addressing HIV. While there is now variable access to rapid HIV testing in community and clinical settings, there is still no access to HIV self-tests. Increasing access to testing is a goal in the Seventh National HIV Strategy 2014-2017 where at section 7.2 it highlights the priority action in HIV testing is to:
“Increase access to and uptake of voluntary and appropriate HIV testing among people from priority populations, particularly gay men and other men who have sex with men.”
Increasing voluntary HIV Testing is also a key action area in the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV and AIDS 2011:
“59 (f ) Significantly expanding and promoting voluntary and confidential HIV testing and counselling and provider-initiated HIV testing and counselling”.
The importance of HIV testing – undiagnosed HIV and primary HIV infection
A significant percentage of HIV sexual transmissions are from people who do not know they are HIV-positive. An
Rates of undiagnosed HIV among gay and bisexual men is estimated to be between 10% and 20%.
To maximise the frequency and reach of HIV testing, a range of options needs to be available. Rapid HIV testings is now available in community and clinical settings across Australia. However, access is variable, with some states only having rapid testing available in a limited number of locations. Improving access to community-based rapid-HIV testing is crucial to enhancing testing rates across Australia and addressing HIV among key populations.
Self-testing (also known as home-based testing) is another important piece in the HIV-testing framework. Self-testing is not yet approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Self-testing allows individuals to conduct a test on themselves using either saliva or blood. Based on overseas experiences, the product information accompanying the test, would provide information about the nature of the test, how to operate it, and contact details for confirmatory testing.
See Health Equity Matters’ policy papers regarding testing: