Researcher targets dentists and pharmacists to do HIV tests

DENTISTS and pharmacies are being asked by Sydney researchers to consider offering super-fast testing for HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases.

If they were to take up the task a result could be given within 20 minutes, although a more detailed blood test would be used to confirm the result.

Since December last year, a finger prick test has been available, encouraging early diagnosis for the virus.

Up to 30% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed and may be spreading it to others.

Currently only GPs offer the rapid test, but University of Sydney's clinical investigator Dr Anthony Santella told a major HIV and AIDS conference in Darwin that this could easily change.

"In Australia, it is estimated that one in five people with HIV are not aware of their infection, and are likely to be transmitting the virus to their sexual partners," Dr Santella said.

Those with HIV are most infectious when they first receive the virus, making early diagnosis an obvious weapon in fighting its spread.

With pharmacies and dentists so closely linked to their communities, Dr Santella said they could "potentially provide a high quality, safe and readily accessible location for HIV and STI testing".

Dentists and pharmacists are currently being surveyed online by the University of Sydney.