AT THE TROPICS: Nurse Debbie-Anne Wilson, HARP manager Jenny Heslop, Dr David Smith and Tropical Fruits chairman Ken Beilby getting an HIV test in the pop up clinic.
AT THE TROPICS: Nurse Debbie-Anne Wilson, HARP manager Jenny Heslop, Dr David Smith and Tropical Fruits chairman Ken Beilby getting an HIV test in the pop up clinic. Andy Parks

Get tested at the Fruits

WITH the largest concentration of gay men outside of Sydney's Mardi Gras, Lismore's Tropical Fruits festival seemed the logical place to set up NSW Health's new mobile HIV testing clinic.

A caravan has been specifically fitted out for rapid testing and this is its first venture to regional Australia after making its maiden voyage to Sydney's Taylor Square on World AIDS Day.

The pop-up clinic is a collaboration between NSW Health and ACON and by doing a finger prick blood test, staff are able to get a result within 20 minutes.

The caravan opened for business on Monday morning and will be open until 4pm today.

Tropical Fruits chairman Ken Beilby was the first person to volunteer for a test and said one of the barriers for sexually active gay men to get tested was having a comfortable environment where they could be supported by friends.

Jenny Heslop is the manager of HARP (HIV/AIDS and Related Programs) for the Northern Rivers and said if you were in the at risk category, you should be tested every three to six months.

"I think of it like your pink slip for rego - if you're sexually active you need to get tested regularly," she said.

Ms Heslop said one of the reasons for setting up at Tropical Fruits was that the event attracted men from lots of other small regional areas who may not feel comfortable getting tested by their local GP.

"It's about giving more options and making the test for gay men easier and more accessible.

"There's not a cure, but it's a chronic disease that is manageable... It's not the death sentence it once was," she said.

Dr David Smith and nurse Debbie-Anne Wilson are the medical staff on duty, with a roster of peer-support people there to assist from ACON.

In the event of a test result coming back positive, the Lismore sexual health clinic is operating where a second blood test can be conducted and a result obtained within a couple of hours. There is also counselling staff there to assist. It is estimated that 21% of people with HIV are undiagnosed.



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