Question: HIV/AIDS Rapid Testing (06.02.2013)

Written on the 20 February 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) --

My question is to the Minister for Health, Mr Davis. I ask: can the minister update the house on any new developments to Victoria's response to HIV prevention?



Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) --

I am pleased to respond to Ms Crozier's question about the very important matter of HIV prevention. The Victorian government is working with various communities to ensure that there is a strong response to the ongoing level of HIV infection. More than 6000 Victorians are HIV positive and are therefore living with HIV. Each year more than 260 people are diagnosed with HIV-positive status. It is clear that technology has moved in a way that will assist in detecting, treating and

thereby preventing the spread of HIV. We know that rapid testing is available throughout most of the rest of the world. It is an important tool that is available, and Victoria will avail itself of that tool.


Since August last year we have been working with the Burnet Institute and other groups to ensure that a trial of a community-based rapid-testing centre is put in place so that rapid testing is available and easily accessible. To explain the current arrangements for HIV testing, blood is taken and sent away for testing, and it takes some weeks before a formal response is received. Rapid testing is available throughout the United States, and the turnaround time is between 15 and 20 minutes. Recently in the United States I saw a number of centres where that testing was being employed. Prior to the election, in a formal response to a number of organisations, I indicated that the Baillieu government was prepared to look at rapid testing and seek an early response on that.


I am very pleased to indicate that we will ensure that a community-based rapid-testing centre is set up in forthcoming months.


That option will mean that rapid testing will be available. It will mean accessibility at a community level. It will mean earlier detection of HIV-positive status, which will enable treatment to begin at an earlier point, which is an advantage for an individual who has HIV-positive status. It will also help prevent the spread of the disease because it will enable earlier treatment. It is now very clear from the evidence internationally that when treatment is begun early the spread of the disease is less likely to occur.


Treatment as prevention is a very clear message that the community has understood, and I was very proud to make that announcement. I know that a number of people from the electorate I share with Ms Crozier and Mrs Coote are very welcoming of this initiative.


I know that the initiative is supported very strongly by relevant groups across the community. I thank the opposition for its support on this matter. It is important that this area of policy is bipartisan at every opportunity.


The importance of this issue and Victorian leadership in this area is well understood. The AIDS 2014 conference will be held in Melbourne in July 2014. That will be an extremely large conference of advocates, researchers and clinicians from around the world. It is important that Victoria leads in this area. We will be the first state to have a community-based rapid-testing approach, and that will be an extremely important step in a public health sense for early detection, detection leading to treatment and ultimately greater prevention efforts.

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