Queensland Positive People: How peer-led testing is changing lives

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More than 200 people visit Queensland Positive People’s peer-led RAPID testing clinic each week for sexual health testing that is fast and judgement-free.

State-of-the-art diagnostic equipment delivers test results for HIV and syphilis in just 20 minutes, while a case of chlamydia or gonorrhoea can usually be detected the same day.

But it’s the people-centred approach, not the technology, which has been the catalyst to the clinic’s success, according to RAPID Program Manager Luke Coffey.

“Our peer testing model takes away a lot of those power imbalances you see in the clinical setting,” Luke said.

“You don’t need an appointment, we’re free and we’re open until 8pm on most nights. It’s about removing those barriers to testing uptake and creating those safe spaces where people can get tested without feeling judged.”

QPP’s peer testers are people from the community with the lived experience of being at risk of and/or living with HIV or STIs. The revolutionary GeneXpert diagnostic devices offer point of care testing for chlamydia and gonorrhoea, with results delivered to clients within a few hours.

Treatment for STIs is provided on site in partnership with the Metro North Brisbane Sexual Health Service and by referral to sexual health friendly GPs.

QPP’s Peer Navigation Program and social groups have also been crucial in establishing ongoing support to people who have been diagnosed with HIV.

“What’s particularly unique and invaluable is we have this support infrastructure for people diagnosed with HIV at RAPID through our Peer Navigation program, which connects people with others living with HIV,” Luke said.

“QPP is able to support people at all different times along their journey of living with HIV to be as positive and confident as possible. The journey is about coming to terms with diagnosis, dealing with stigma – both internal and external- and navigating the health system, especially for people who are unable to claim Medicare benefits.”

Since opening its doors in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley in 2017, demand for testing at the RAPID clinic has continued to climb, with annual growth of 30 to 40 per cent each year.

The RAPID program also provides outreach testing on university campuses,  sex-on-premises venues, and in partnership with the Townville Sexual Health Service.

The state government recently committed additional funding to increase RAPID’s capacity to cater for up to 10,000 clients a year.

Queensland Positive People CEO Melissa Warner and Quality Manager Cleo Gardiner

Queensland Positive People’s CEO Melissa Warner says the RAPID Program is now considered an essential part of the suite of publicly funded sexual health services in Queensland.

“Our RAPID clinic diagnoses between 20 and 32 per cent of HIV notifications across the Metro North region each year,” CEO Melissa Warner said.

“When you look not just at HIV, but at the syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia epidemics we currently have across Queensland, it’s so important that people are engaging with sexual health testing, so the fact we are attracting the people who need to be tested and they are getting treated is very encouraging.”

QPP has also secured funding to provide HIV self-testing kits across Queensland on a permanent basis, following an initial roll-out at the start of COVID.

“A lot of our resources are consumed keeping up with demand, so we’re excited that we will be able to continue our growth and deliver peer-led sexual health testing services to even more people,” Melissa said.

Queensland Positive People (QPP) is a peer-led organisation providing health and community services to people at risk of and living with HIV – and is committed to actively promoting self-determination and empowerment for all people living with HIV throughout Queensland.

17 March 2021 |Cohort: |Service type: |Location: ,