New sexual health clinic opens up on HIV frontline

Prof Katherine Brown at the new CBD clinic.Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Prof Katherine Brown at the new CBD clinic.Picture: ADAM McLEAN

A new sexual health outreach service will open in Wollongong's CBD to fill the gap left by the closure of a similar service over 18 months ago.

The ACON (AIDS Council of NSW) Wollongong office was closed in January, 2013, after operating for more than 23 years.

Illawarra Sexual Health Service director, Clinical Associate Professor Katherine Brown said the new outreach centre would bring services and support for people with HIV and AIDS back to the city centre.

"We have a full-time clinic at Port Kembla, but having a presence in the CBD will give more people greater access to services," she said.

"The clinic will be run every Tuesday from the end of the month at the site of the Illawarra Drug and Alcohol Service, so will give people a broader range of frontline services together in the one location."

Prof Brown launched the clinic at the office in Diamond Plaza, Burelli Street, on Thursday to coincide with HIV Testing Week which runs until Sunday.

As part of the week, the sexual health service will also be offering HIV rapid testing, which provides results in just 30 minutes.

Prof Brown said the rapid testing was just one of a range of high quality, safe and innovative HIV testing services on offer.

"What we're hoping to do is reduce the number of people with HIV who haven't been diagnosed by offering testing at a greater range of sites, and by having more types of testing available," she said.

"HIV rates have been stable for a number of years although there have been some increases over the last few years and we do have some concerns that the messages about safe sex are still not getting through.

"We don't want people to put off testing because they are terrified of the results, as HIV can now be managed as a chronic disease (not a terminal illness)."

About 10,500 people are living with HIV in NSW - with more than 100 of those in the Illawarra.

An annual report by University of NSW's Kirby Institute said about 26,800 people were now living with HIV in Australia, although about 14 per cent of them didn't know they had it.

The report also showed about 60 per cent of people with HIV in Australia were being treated, compared with about 25 per cent of people with HIV in the US.

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