ACON’s peer run testing service a[TEST] on Oxford Street has hit an historic milestone, clocking up over 10,000 tests since the shopfront opened two years ago in February 2015.

The organisation has announced funding for the a[TEST] service has been extended 2020 and that the Oxford Street service has also expanded to meet increased client demand.

The service expanision comes at a time when HIV testing rates have reached an all-time high. ACON Our CEO Nicolas Parkhill says making HIV testing fast, free, convenient and culturally appropriate has been the key to the success of community-based testing.

 “Recent data from the NSW Ministry of Health shows that not only are new HIV notifications starting to decline, but HIV testing is continuing to increase both overall in NSW and among high risk populations,” Parkhill said.

“In fact, figures show that 76 per cent of gay men in Sydney had an HIV test between 2015 and 2016, the highest figure since this data started being collected in 1996. The fact that a[TEST] Oxford Street has seen thousands of these men is very encouraging – especially for a new service – which demonstrates that increasing testing options leads to increased testing rates.” Parkhill said.

Karen Price, Deputy CEO and Director of HIV and Sexual Health suggested a combination of factors including engaging campaigns, a peer led response and ease of access are contributable to a[TEST]’s success.

“Our Ending HIV campaigns are highly engaging and visible reminders to our communities that testing more is as important as staying safe and treating early in terms of reducing HIV transmission.  Once a person has decided to get a test, ensuring they have a good experience when they visit a[TEST] Oxford Street is key to them testing more often.  We see lots of return visitors as we know men appreciate the high quality, easy and convenient service we offer with our partners, Sydney Sexual Health Centre.” Price said.

Parkhill praised Sydney’s gay community for embracing the EndingHIV messaging.

“We are also very grateful to gay men in NSW have consistently shown that they’re committed to looking after themselves and their partners, by testing more often.

“With Mardi Gras over for another year, we’re encouraging gay men in Sydney to book a test at any of the clinics across Sydney and NSW – these days it’s easier than ever to get tested and help end HIV.” Parkhill said.

If you would like to have a rapid HIV test drop by the ACON a[TEST] shopfront at 167 Oxford St, Darlinghurst

[image] Members of ACON’s peer testing service team outside the a[TEST] shopfront.