The approval of a test for HIV which provides a preliminary result within 30 minutes will lead to quicker treatment and will reduce the risk of sufferers passing on the virus, Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says.
Ms Plibersek today announced the test, developed by medical diagnostics company Alere, had been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for marketing in Australia.
The test requires only a finger prick of blood which is transferred to a test card. The card detects the presence of HIV antigen and antibodies in the blood sample. It will only be administered by health care professionals who are trained to interpret the results and are able to provide care and counselling services.
The test will be processed while the patient waits, whereas laboratory tests typically take over a week and can take as long as three months.
The test is a preliminary screen only and all positive results require confirmation by a laboratory test.
Ms Plibersek said she hoped the test would encourage people at risk of HIV infection to be tested more regularly.
"Rapid testing is being used internationally to ensure that people newly infected with HIV can quickly access treatment," Ms Plibersek said.
"That means better health for the patient and a lower risk of passing on the virus."
Rob Lake, the executive director of the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations welcomed the approval of the test, which he said would increase the level of testing and enable earlier diagnosis.
"Making HIV testing simpler and more accessible for gay men, the most affected community in Australia, will help make the testing experience easier and encourage them to test more often," he said.
There have been 31,000 HIV infections, more than 10,000 cases of AIDS and more than 6000 deaths from AIDS in Australia since 1985. An estimated 24,731 people were living with HIV in Australia at the end of 2011.
There were 1137 new HIV diagnoses in Australia in 2011, an 8.2 per cent increase on the 2010 number. There has been a gradual increase in HIV diagnoses in Australia over the past 12 years.