University of Sydney researchers are currently surveying dentists and community pharmacists to gauge their support to introduce rapid HIV and STI testing in dental surgeries and pharmacies, potentially increasing rates of early diagnosis.
"HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are often undiagnosed or diagnosed late because of the stigma associated with them, their often asymptomatic nature and the limited number of testing providers, particularly for marginalised and at-risk populations," he said.
"In Australia, it is estimated that one in 5 people with HIV are not aware of their infection and are likely to be transmitting the virus to their sexual partners. People with HIV are most infectious to others in the immediate period following initial acquisition of the virus and thus easy access to regular testing is becoming increasingly recognised as an important public health strategy.
"Furthermore, with the increased availability of simple, safe antiretroviral regimes, the benefits of earlier commencement of therapy are now becoming more widely accepted. As a consequence, all major HIV and STI strategies, including the New South Wales HIV Strategy, promote increasing accessibility and frequency of testing of at-risk populations, made possible by new, on-site
"Community pharmacies and dental surgeries, with their recognised trust and expertise, close links to local populations and widespread geographical distribution, can potentially provide a high quality, safe and readily accessible location for HIV and STI testing.
"And it also represents an opportunity for pharmacists and dentists to expand their existing public health role."
About the study
The research is a collaboration between University of Sydney researchers Dr Anthony Santella and Associate Professor Richard Hillman (Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre), Professor Ines Krass (Faculty of Pharmacy), Associate Professor Mark Schifter (Faculty of Dentistry) and Dr Tim Schlub (Sydney School of Public Health).
If you are a community pharmacist or dentist in Australia, please consider participating in the online survey. It will take about 10 minutes to complete and is anonymous and confidential survey. The survey is open until November 30.