We are always reading about HIV and what we can do to help prevent transmission, but do we really need to listen? In Australia, it is estimated that there are up to 35,000 people living with HIV, of these people, just over 24,000 actually know that they are living with HIV. So that means that when you pick up a guy and ask about (or assume) their HIV status, how can you really be sure, or how can they really be sure when they tell you they are negative?
For anyone who is sexually active, an important part of your sex life is to test regularly for HIV and STIs. If you’re a gay guy who uses mobile apps like Grindr and Scruff or has casual sex partners, then it’s recommended you have a sexual health screen every 3 months. And if everyone tested regularly, then the number of people who are unaware they are living with HIV would reduce.
Over the last couple years, HIV testing has been made so much easier in Queensland (and the rest of Australia) with the introduction of rapid HIV testing. This is a really simple test that just takes a small drop of blood from your fingertip and then gives you your result in only 20 minutes!
To make things even easier for you, Brisbane has just seen the opening of ‘Rapid’ – an HIV testing service in the middle of the Valley. Rapid has completely changed the way we can test for HIV in Brisbane. Whatever your story, Rapid has been created with the community in mind, and is a safe place to get tested for HIV whatever your sexual behavior or injecting practices.
HIV and STI screenings shouldn’t be a scary experience – it’s actually in your best health interest to know your HIV status. Regular feedback from the community shows that feelings of being judged and being uncomfortable stops people from wanting to test for HIV and other STIs, and also stops people from talking to their Doctor about their sexual health.
Rapid has been set up as a trial site and is staffed by community members who are trained in all things sexual health. The staff are from the community and understand the diverse needs of men who have sex with men. This peer model for HIV testing is one that has proved popular internationally. Community HIV testing sites staffed by peer workers has been a successful model in Canada and the UK for many years and now it’s finally Brisbane’s turn!
What works for the peer model in HIV testing is the comfort for the client. The staff are there to work with you in discussing your risk, but there wont be any probing questions about things you don’t want to talk about. So it’s the same service, without all the questions. There are also no clinical files in a peer setting as staff are not clinicians so there’s no need to keep files on your sexual behavior.
Open Tuesdays to Friday from 3pm-8pm and also on Saturday 12pm-5pm, it is set up to be a convenient stop after work or on the weekend before your night out. It is located at 2 Winn Street in Fortitude Valley (in between Ann & McLachlan Streets) and entry is via a discreet entrance opposite Winn Lane shops. Keep your eye out for the black and red Rapid signage.
Appointments aren’t needed at Rapid, you can just walk in during opening hours and be seen. Although if you prefer, you can always make an appointment to lock in a time, just call or email on 3013 5566 / firstname.lastname@example.org. All appointments are free – but please take your medicare card with you.