Background and methods: Despite a concentration of risk factors for HIV transmission, many remote Aboriginal communities in central Australia have a low uptake of HIV testing. We studied the uptake of HIV testing in six clinics in remote Aboriginal communities following the introduction of voluntary confidential testing to assess the impact of the intervention and to determine if the program was reaching people most at risk of HIV infection and transmission.
Setting: The study was conducted by Nganampa Health Council, an Aboriginal-controlled health service on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands in the far north-west of South Australia.
Results: Since the introduction of confidential coded testing in August 1994 the number of HIV tests provided through the remote clinics has increased from 83 tests/year to 592 tests/year. In the 12-month audit period (August 1, 1995, to July 31, 1996) 62.7% of women aged 20-24 years, 44.6% of people aged 12-40 years and 24% of the total population had an HIV test. Fifty per cent of tests were accounted for by the 15-25 year age groups and 60% of tests related to an STD consult.
Discussion: This study shows that a high uptake of HIV testing in high-risk groups can be achieved in remote Aboriginal communities where a high level of confidentiality is maintained.