The Northern NSW Local Health District has encouraged residents, particularly those at high risk, to get tested for HIV.
The Northern NSW Local Health District has encouraged residents, particularly those at high risk, to get tested for HIV. Darryn Smith

Health district urges residents to get screened for HIV

IF YOU haven't ever been tested for HIV, or haven't had a test in the past year, Northern NSW Local Health District is urging you to get checked.

As part of HIV Testing Week, which runs from June 1 to 7, NSW residents have been encouraged to visit a sexual health clinic.

Recent data has shown NSW experienced a 22 per cent drop in HIV transmission notifications in the first three months of 2019, compared with the average for the previous five years.

NSW had the lowest annual number of notifications on record last year, according to the NSW Health HIV Data Report.

But in the same time, HIV testing in NSW was on the rise.

HIV and Related Programs North Coast manager Jenny Heslop said those results were encouraging, but she said it was important for people to get tested regularly.

"HIV Testing Week is a good reminder to get regularly tested," Ms Heslop said.

"Men who have sex with men should get tested at least once a year and men with multiple partners, up to four times per year.

"Tests are available at your local GP or sexual health service. There's also a new Dried Blood Spot testing kit which is private and discreet and there's no need to visit a doctor.

"The test is delivered in the mail and results are then sent by text, email or over the phone.

"People at risk of HIV infection, particularly men who have sex with men, should also take proper precautions to protect themselves.

"This includes taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and using condoms."

She said 52 men who'd been intimate with other men were diagnosed with HIV in NSW in the first three months of 2019.

More than half of them had not been tested in the previous year, and 17 per cent had never been tested.

"Getting diagnosed late can be life-threatening and increase the chances of HIV being passed on to sexual partners," Ms Heslop said.

"Being diagnosed early means you can receive treatment and live a long and healthy life and testing is discreet, confidential and often free."

The State Government has committed $21.9 million this financial year to boost testing, treatment and prevention.

To find out where to get tested call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink on 1800 451 624.

For more info, visit www.health.nsw.gov.au/HIV-test.