Clinicians get behind ending stigma and more testing on World Aids Day
ON World AIDS Day today, Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service clinicians are urging people to end the stigma around HIV, as part of a national effort to end discrimination and increase testing rates.
Wide Bay Public Health Physician Dr Niall Conroy said there were 38 million people living with HIV globally, and last year about 800 Australians were diagnosed with the disease.
“HIV doesn’t discriminate, and neither should we – people living with HIV or AIDS are our family, friends and work colleagues,” Dr Conroy said.
“Living with HIV can be a lonely and isolating experience because many sufferers don’t even tell their immediate family or closest friends about their diagnosis.
“World Aids Day is all about ending that stigma and getting the message out there that HIV can be very effectively controlled and the progress of the virus halted.
“In fact, modern HIV medication means most people with the virus can now expect to have a normal life expectancy.
“World AIDS day is also the perfect time to spread the word about “U=U” (Undetectable = Untrasmittable).
“This means that people taking their HIV medication as prescribed, and who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, cannot transmit the virus to others.”
Fiona Stack, Nurse Unit Manager of WBHHS’s Sexual Health Service (Q Clinic), said World AIDS Day was also a great opportunity to remind people about the importance of getting tested.
“It’s important for people to know their HIV status, to enable them to access treatment as early as possible and start living a healthier life,” Ms Stack said.
“HIV testing is quick, easy and free. Anyone can have a HIV test, and rapid testing – which is available through the Wide Bay Sexual Health Service – can get their results in 20 minutes.
“If you‘re someone in a high-risk group, speak to your doctor or a member of the Wide Bay Sexual Health Service about having a test.”
In Australia, people at the highest risk of getting HIV infection are:
- men who have sex with men
- people who have sex with people from countries with a high rate of HIV infection
- people who inject drugs
- people who have had tattoos or other piercings overseas using unsterile equipment.
HIV testing is also recommended for:
- people with multiple partners or a recent partner change
- anyone diagnosed with a STI
- people using pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV
- sexual contacts of someone with HIV or at risk of HIV
- migrants from countries with a high rate of HIV
- pregnant women
- anyone with symptoms of HIV or an AIDS illness.
The Wide Bay Sexual Health Service (Q Clinic) is located at the Margaret Rose Centre, on the corner of Bourbong and Hope Streets, Bundaberg, and also provides a visiting clinic to the Fraser Coast. The service can be contacted on 4150 2754.
Services at the clinic, including rapid HIV testing, do not require a Medicare or health care card, although people who do have these cards are encouraged to bring them.