Launching the Dried Blood Spot (DBS) HIV Testing Project

NSW Health has recently launched the Dried Blood Spot (DBS) HIV Testing Project to improve access to HIV testing for people at risk. Primary health care providers and other health professionals play a crucial role in HIV testing. The DBS HIV Test now provides an additional option.

NSW Health is committed to achieving the virtual elimination of HIV transmission by 2020 as outlined in the NSW HIV Strategy 2016-2020. To reach this goal, very high levels of testing are required among people at risk of HIV. Early diagnosis and treatment of HIV provides the best health outcomes for individuals and eliminates the likelihood of passing the infection to others. However, in NSW, 36% of HIV diagnoses still occur at a late stage of the disease.

NSW data shows that people who are diagnosed at a late stage are more likely to be heterosexual or from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The reasons for late diagnosis vary for each group: heterosexual people are often not aware they are at risk of contracting HIV, and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may experience challenges using mainstream testing methods due to embarrassment, or concerns about cost or venepuncture sampling.

The DBS HIV Testing Project has been designed to address these concerns.

The Dried Blood Spot HIV Test is a self-collection test, which enables people to collect a finger prick sample of blood, at home. The testing kit is ordered online from www.hivtest.health.nsw.gov.au Following collection, the sample is posted to St Vincent’s Reference Laboratory for analysis. Results and follow up care is coordinated through the NSW Sexual Health Infolink.

The DBS HIV Test is highly accurate and provided free of charge to the patient. At the early stage of the project, the test is available to:

  • men who have had sex with men
  • people from countries where HIV is more common (Africa or Asia), or people who have sexual partners from these regions.

Part of the DBS HIV testing project includes linkage to an appropriate primary health care service for confirmatory testing. This will be facilitated by a specialist HIV nurse, who will contact the service in advance of the patient attending. This nurse can answer any questions you have about the DBS HIV test.

If you are interested in promoting this service in your practice, promotional materials including posters and business cards are available for display in waiting areas. These materials are also available in a number of priority languages. Further information can be found at www.hivtest.health.nsw.gov.au or by contacting Rachel Katterl, Senior Policy Analyst, HIV and STI Branch, NSW Ministry of Health Rachel.Katterl@moh.health.nsw.gov.au.