A new national study, aiming to identify rates of undiagnosed HIV in Australia’s gay community, is offering free HIV testing to men at various LGBTI community events and venues across Australia throughout 2014.
The Count Study is a collaboration between the Centre for Social Research in Health, the Burnet Institute and the Kirby Institute and is recruiting participants as they complete Gay Community Periodic Surveys at community events and venues around the country.
People with undiagnosed HIV infection disproportionately contribute to HIV transmission in Australia. It is hoped that the study will contribute significantly to reducing the number of undiagnosed HIV infections and provide strategic knowledge to guide HIV prevention programs.
Men choosing to take part in the study are required to provide a saliva sample and have the option to participate anonymously or receive their test result by SMS, phone or email. The COUNT team will assist with referrals to support services, if required, after the results are delivered.
“For the first time we will get a national snapshot of HIV prevalence in the gay community – among both those aware and unaware of their infection, ” says lead investigator Associate Professor Martin Holt.
Associate Professor Holt says most existing studies rely on self-reported HIV status to measure HIV in the community, and these results can be affected by how often people get tested.
“They also fail to account for those with undiagnosed infection. This study will give us important information about the profile of men with undiagnosed HIV in Australia, which is vital for designing HIV prevention programs,” Associate Professor Holt explains.