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02 Mar 2015

RAPID launches on the Gold Coast 

QPP’s Brisbane-based RAPID testing initiative has been so successful that the service has been extended to the Gold Coast. Sharna Quigley reports.

With the Gold Coast accounting for 11 percent of new HIV diagnoses in Queensland, expanding the RAPID testing program into the region was a no-brainer. “The Gold Coast is the largest centre of HIV notifications outside Brisbane,” said Jime Lemoire, QPP’s RAPID practice manager, “so we’re bringing the clinic down there to increase testing rates among gay men and men who have sex with men [MSM]. With efforts to increase testing, we hope to see the rate of new notifications drop over time on the Gold Coast.”

The Gold Coast RAPID service operates out of the Queensland Injectors’ Health Network clinic (QuIHN) in Burleigh Heads. Lemoire says the close partnership with QuIHN has enabled QPP to provide more services to the community at a lower cost.

“QuIHN believes in the right to healthcare with respect, dignity and consideration — and those are values shared by RAPID.  We are looking forward to this exciting community partnership with QuIHN, as well as our clinical partnership with the Gold Coast Sexual Health Clinic and other medical services,” Lemoire said.

RAPID is a non-invasive model of testing where clients are invited to ask questions about HIV but — importantly — they do not need to provide details about their sexual or injecting history. “Peers do not need to conduct a sexual health history,” said Lemoire, “and clients of RAPID report exceptionally high satisfaction rates with our approach.”

The peer-led model means that the staff conducting the testing consultations are from the targeted community themselves. This can be beneficial, as many men feel more comfortable sharing with a peer, and less anxious talking about sexual health and risk. 

One of RAPID’s peer education and testing officer’s, Glen, believes the model is successful because he knows exactly what it’s like to be in the client’s position. “When clients learn that, they feel more at ease, respected and understood,” said Glen. “This really helps in reducing barriers to testing, and even encourages regular testing routines because clients get to know us and we have a down-to-earth relationship with them.”

QPP supports a range of testing options which, Lemoire says, is crucial if Australia is to end new HIV transmissions by 2020. “Diverse approaches must be embraced ,” he said, “if we are to increase HIV testing rates to the level required to achieve our ambitious 90-90-90 UN targets.”

The RAPID testing service operates Tuesday and Wednesday from 2:00pm until 7:00pm. For more information visit: rapid.org.au.

Be AWARE

AWARE is a one-day workshop that provides information and support to those who have recently been diagnosed with HIV. The workshop covers a variety of topics, from disclosure to treatments — and everything else in between.

The feedback from participants is always extremely favourable. “The AWARE program gave me a sense that I would be okay, that I could continue to live my life the way I choose,” said one. “To anyone who is newly diagnosed and has not attended the AWARE Workshop, I would highly recommend it,” said another.

For further information or to register for the next workshop, please contact Jesse Hooper, peer support and communications officer at QPP, on 1800 636 241 or visit qpp.net.au

QLD government re-funds Biala

As Toby Longhurst reports, the long-established Biala Sexual Health Clinic will be a beneficiary of the Palaszczuk government’s maiden budget.

In its first budget since winning office in February, Queensland’s Labor government is investing a record $14.2 billion in health. Of that, $13.2 million will be allocated over four years to reinvigorate the Biala clinic in Roma Street.

Another $5.3 million allocated to the sexual health strategy will be rolled out in partnership with community organisations with funding being provided to the state’s primary HIV organisations: the Queensland AIDS Council (QuAC), HIV Foundation Queensland (HIVFQ) and Queensland Positive People (QPP).

Funding of the Biala clinic was controversially cut by the Metro North Hospital board in 2013 which led to the closure of the general sexual health clinic and a greatly reduced capacity for the HIV/AIDS clinic to operate in — a move widely slammed by the state's HIV service providers and practitioners.

HIV specialist Dr Fiona Bisshop (who was a fierce opponent of the clinic's de-funding) says she is pleased that the “extremely short-sighted” decision has been corrected. “Biala played a vital role in offering services to travellers, people requiring anonymity, and people in need of free treatment,” Dr Bisshop said. “They say that you can measure the health of a city by the sexual health of its inhabitants – let's hope Brisbane can once again measure up to the high standards we have had in the past.”