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ASHM Report Back
Clinical posts from members and guests of the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) from various international medical and scientific conferences on HIV, AIDS, viral hepatitis, and sexual health.
The implication of HIV Self Testing (HIVST) for Sex Workers in Australia
This talk was presented by Udesha Chandrasena, Policy Officer, Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association, Australia
Udesha spoke about the results from a study conducted by the Scarlet Alliance, involving an online survey that was distributed to sex workers including members of the Scarlet Alliance. The survey looked at potential implications of HIVST
Sex workers in Australia have low rates of HIV infection despite laws that stigmatise and discriminate against them. This is largely due to the success of peer eduction, outreach services, and safer sex information practices.
Benefits of HIVST may include providing testing options that are private and confidential and that take place outside of a clinical setting
The risks of such testing , however, may include a higher rate of false reactive results due to sex workers being a low prevalence population
In addition, there is no opportunity for pre and post test counselling
In the event of a reactive result this may be considered evidence of HIV infection as per the National Policy on HIV testing, which could have consequences for the sex workers due to current laws and policies that are in place
It is important to ensure that if HIVST was carried out, sex workers are supported and that information is available regarding what to do in the case of forced or coerced testing. Privacy rights also need to be protected
In addition, clear information regarding the risks of false reactive test results and the need for confirmatory testing needs to be in place
The sex workers who completed the survey generally welcomed HIVST, however they were concerned about the legal implications and other possible drawbacks as mentioned above