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High demand for rapid HIV testing

Mon 6 Aug 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News

The introduction of a new rapid HIV test which gives a result in only 20 minutes has seen people flocking to AIDS Foundation centres around New Zealand in record numbers. The FASTEST (Free Anonymous Simple Test) system, available only through NZAF centres, has resulted in a two to three hundred per cent increase in the Foundation's testing numbers since its introduction. “We are now conducting tests to the capacity of our services,” says NZAF Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe. “The demand has certainly fulfilled our expectations, and in some centres it has exceeded them. We are now looking at whether we need to increase our staff numbers accordingly.” A large percentage of FASTEST clients say they had never been tested for HIV before. “Some of these people had been deterred from testing previously by the anxiety of having to wait up to a week for results from a blood test,” Smythe says. “The simplified test procedure has certainly encouraged people who may have been at risk to come forward.” Rapid HIV testing was introduced to NZAF's Auckland centre in December 2006, and to Christchurch and Hamilton in May. Plans are underway to introduce the service to Wellington's Awhina Centre in time for World AIDS Day in December this year. “We acknowledge there has been a delay for Wellington, but given the runaway success of the service in other parts of the country, we've had to take the time to ensure that the Awhina Centre is equipped to cope with the anticipated demand,” Smythe explains. Locally-contracted HIV infections have been steadily increasing in New Zealand since 2001, and there is evidence to suggest that the introduction of rapid HIV testing will make a significant contribution to reducing the spread of the epidemic. “According to our clients, their awareness of safe sexual activities has been increased by their use of the service, which is brilliant as prevention is still the best form of treatment for HIV,” Smythe says. “If you have been having sex without condoms, or are unsure of your HIV status, then it would be wise to get tested. If you are HIV positive, it's better to know so a specialist can discuss with you as soon as possible whether you need to start treatment, and what options are best for you.”     Ref: NZAF (Press Release)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Monday, 6th August 2007 - 8:35pm

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