Queensland Minister for Health Lawrence Springborg
Rapid HIV Testing Approved For Queensland Use
Victor P Taffa
A quick new screening test for HIV, which will cut the waiting time for results from three months to half an hour, will be available in Queensland soon.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said Queensland’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS was a strong advocate of the rapid screening test and supported its implementation.
Chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS, Darren Russell, said the new test was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration this week for marketing in Australia.
“The new Alere Determine Combo HIV ½ Ag/Ab test is already in use internationally.” Mr. Russell said.
“It ensures people newly infected with HIV can access treatment more quickly.”
“To ensure accuracy and the correct interpretation of results, the test is to be conducted by qualified health professionals. It cannot be used at home.”
Mr. Russell said a number of logistical issues were yet to be finalised, but he was confident that rapid testing would be available in Queensland Health facilities in the near future.
Mr. Springborg said Queensland was committed to both Commonwealth and UN targets for a 50 % reduction in HIV transmission by 2015. HIV notifications in Queensland were subject to a general increasing trend from 1998 and HIV diagnosis rates in Queensland doubled in the last decade.
“Any increase of HIV notifications is of concern.” Mr. Springborg said.
“This new rapid test is designed to improve early detection, compared to antibody tests alone which can take between two or three weeks to three months.”
“It will undoubtedly assist at-risk people to quickly access their possible HIV status. That means better health for the patient and a lower risk of passing on the virus.”
Mr. Springborg said simple, first line screening would encourage vulnerable people to be tested more regularly and to undertake further assessment after a positive result.
“This will enable treatment to commence if a positive diagnosis is confirmed.” Mr. Springborg said.
“We want to encourage all Queenslanders to be aware of HIV/AIDS and to take action to reduce transmission by promoting safe sex practices.”
Earlier this year Mr. Springborg established the Ministerial Advisory Committee on HIV/AIDS. It provides him independent advice on HIV prevention and awareness and also advises on the allocation of the HIV/AIDS budget to minimise HIV transmission.