Curbing HIV: the move to PoCT

MANAGEMENT of HIV infections and the subsequent number of AIDS diagnoses in Australia both reflect how well public health policy can respond to a new crisis.

The willingness of the government to engage with interest groups representing the gay community and sex workers enabled it to develop and mobilise policies that quickly contained the spread of HIV.

Australia’s annual number of new HIV diagnoses spiked in the late 1980s but then fell away by about two-thirds, to hit a low of 718 cases in 1999.1

That’s where the slide ended, and the annual figure has been creeping up ever since – though it is now relatively stable with 1008 cases in 2006, 1048 in 2007, then 1001 in 2008 and 1050 in 2009. 

With the number of new HIV diagnoses reported every year stuck stubbornly above a thousand, experts say it is time for a rethink about how to curb the spread of the virus, and that a move to rapid point-of-care testing (PoCT) may