Kirby Institute researchers join the AIDS2020 Virtual Conference

News | Published on 06 Jul 2020

New data showing a 3-fold increase in the annual number of gay and bisexual men (GBM) attending publicly funded HIV testing services and a reduction in undiagnosed cases of HIV in NSW since 2010 are being presented at the 2020 AIDS Virtual conference this week.

AIDS 2020 is the 23rd International AIDS Conference; a biannual conference coordinated by the International AIDS Society and the world’s largest conference on HIV/AIDS.

The analysis, led by the NSW HIV Prevention Partnership Project, pulls together state-wide data from 2010-2018, during which time HIV testing initiatives were increasingly targeted and optimised for GBM. The NSW Government developed two strategies to curb HIV transmission in the state: the first from 2012-15 and the second covering 2016-20.

"We measured HIV testing among gay and bisexual men in New South Wales, Australia between 2010 and 2018 to assess the impact of two statewide government HIV strategies that aimed to increase HIV testing,” says Phillip Keen, who co-led the study.

The NSW Government-led strategies prioritised increasing targeted HIV testing among GBM, who accounted for 80% of HIV diagnoses in NSW prior between 2010 and 2018. As part of this, ACON, which is the largest community-based HIV organisation in NSW, led a variety of campaigns using multiple platforms to promote HIV testing. There were also initiatives to increase the capacity of HIV testing services, such as express clinics at sexual health clinics, and innovations such as SMS appointment reminders were introduced. Additionally, new modes of HIV testing such as community-based, peer-led rapid HIV testing services and dried-blood spot home-sample collection for processing tests by mail were introduced.

Over the nine year lifespan of the study, the suite of initiatives led to significant increases in the total numbers of GBM attending clinics receiving an HIV test in a year, as well as an increase in HIV testing after diagnosis with a sexually transmitted infection. The number of men attending clinics more than tripled, and HIV testing in conjunction with diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection increased by 37%.

“The frequency of annual HIV testing among high risk men in this population increased from 1.8 to 4.1 tests per year,” says Dr Prital Patel, who co-led the study. “We also found that the estimated proportion of undiagnosed HIV-positive men declined from 7.1% to 2.8% among Australian-born men, below the UNAIDS Fast Track target of 5% by 2030.”

While the overall figures were encouraging, the decrease in estimated undiagnosed HIV was not consistent across population groups. “It is concerning that the proportion of HIV-positive men who are undiagnosed rose among overseas-born men, from 15.3% to 16.9% from 2010 to 2018 respectively. This is six times higher than among Australian-born men," says Dr Patel.

Mr Keen says that more targeted promotion of HIV testing to overseas-born GBM, in a range of languages, would help see more consistent results across the state. “There is a need for targeted initiatives outside clinics to support overseas born gay and bisexual men to come forward for testing, or to access self-testing" he says.

“Across multiple testing indicators examined in this study, we have shown that testing uptake in overseas-born and Australian-born GBM has risen at similar rates and proportions at publically funded clinics. Connecting more overseas-born GBM to access routine care at these clinics could therefore help address the gaps in undiagnosed HIV,” says Dr Patel.

Mr Keen will be presenting this data as part of the AIDS2020 Virtual Conference, which is running online this week, 6-10 July 2020. The Conference will be run virtually, and delegates can view a range of pre-recorded and live sessions with HIV researchers from around the world.

There are a number of other Kirby Institute presentations at AIDS2020. A full list can be found below.

Live sessions

Pre-recorded presentations


  • Dr Alison Carter, "Beyond prevention: Recognizing the concerns about sexual wellbeing among women post HIV diagnosis", E-poster PED0873.
  • Mr Patrick Eustaquio (CHART Program), "Key population-led, community-based test-and-treat approach to address the gaps in the HIV care cascade among men who have sex with men and transgender-women in the Philippines: A retrospective cohort analysis", E-poster PED1217.
  • Dr Awachana Jiamsakul, "Trends in clinical follow-up between 2008-2018 among people living with HIV in the TREAT Asia and Australian HIV Observational Databases (TAHOD and AHOD)", E-poster PEB0091.
  • Associate Professor Angela Kelly-Hanku, "High levels of HIV drug resistance and evidence of transmission clusters within and across key populations in Papua New Guinea: Results from a biobehavioural survey", E-poster PEC0500.
  • Ms Vera Klemm, "Epigenetic silencing siRNA delivered to the nucleus of HIV-1 infected cells via nanoparticle system", E-poster PEA0062.
  • Dr Amy Kwon, “Can we prevent COVID -19 epidemic in Prison setting: a modelling study”, poster presentation at the special COVID-19 Conference, following AIDS 2020 on 10-11 July 2020.
  • Ms Lydia Nakiganda, "Health care seeking behaviours and challenges in accessing HIV services in men who have sex with men in rural Rakai, Uganda", E-poster PED0975.
  • Ms Ye Zhang, "The "voice of women" to integrate HIV and syphilis testing in antenatal care: A systematic review of qualitative research", E-poster PEE1510.