11 per cent of Aussies living with HIV don’t know they have it

The team from the Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre.

HIV treatment is now very simple with few side effects – you only need to take one tablet a day.

Despite this, 11% of people living with HIV in Australia do not know they have the virus.

Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre (WSSHC) is aiming to change this by normalising and increasing HIV testing.

Centre director Professor David Lewis said early detection and treatment can prevent damage to the immune system and prevent the virus being spread to others.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about HIV and AIDS, which can make people hesitant to get checked,” David said.

“People on treatment who have an undetectable viral load cannot pass HIV to their sexual partners. So being diagnosed with HIV infection isn’t the end of your sex life.”

“Most importantly, our staff aren’t here to judge you or out you. We’re just here to help.”

WSSHC provides free and confidential testing, support, treatment and management of sexually transmissible infections including HIV.

Based in Parramatta, with a second site in Mount Druitt, the centre focuses on priority populations including men who have sex with men, sex workers, at-risk young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people who inject drugs, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

You can also get HIV testing at a GP or order an online HIV test. See the Sexual Health Info link.

There are things that you can do to prevent HIV, these include:

  • Using condoms for anal and vaginal sex
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): Taking daily medication to prevent HIV (You can get PrEP from a GP or WSSHC). Click here for more information
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): Taking daily medication for 28 days after a possible HIV risk exposure to prevent HIV (You can get PEP from the Emergency Department or WSSHC). Click here for more information
  • Always use clean injecting equipment and never share equipment
  • Avoid unsafe tattooing or body piercing

WSSHC is also working with healthcare workers across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) to identify barriers to HIV testing. The results of the research will inform a WSLHD guideline to support and increase HIV testing in patients of emergency departments, mental health, hepatitis and drug and alcohol services among others.

For more information, visit the WSSHC website.