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The New South Wales Dried Blood Spot Pilot

Dried blood spot (DBS) testing provides an alternative to phlebotomy and addresses barriers to accessing healthcare experienced by some key populations. Large-scale evaluations of DBS testing programs are needed to understand their feasibility. A study, published in BMC Infectious Diseases, evaluated the implementation of a state-wide DBS HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing pilot.


The New South Wales (NSW) DBS Pilot is an interventional cohort study of people testing for HIV antibody and/or HCV RNA from DBS samples in NSW, Australia. Participants at risk of HIV/HCV participated in testing via: 1) self-registration online with a DBS collection kit delivered and returned by conventional postal service; or 2) assisted DBS sample collection at 36 community health sites (including drug treatment and harm-minimisation services) and prisons. Participants received results by text (HIV antibody/ HCV RNA not detected) or a healthcare provider (HIV antibody/ HCV RNA detected). The RE-AIM framework was used to evaluate reach, effectiveness, adoption, and implementation.


Reach: Between November 2016 and December 2020, 7,392 individuals were tested for HIV and/or HCV (21% self-registration, 34% assisted in community, and 45% assisted in prison). Effectiveness: Of 6,922 people tested for HIV (19% men who have sex with men, 13% living outside major cities, 21% born outside Australia), 51% (3,521/6,922) had no HIV test in the past two years, 0.1% (10/6,922) were newly diagnosed with HIV, and 80% (8/10) initiated HIV treatment within six months. Of 5,960 people tested for HCV (24% women, 35% Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, 55% recently injected drugs), 15% had detectable HCV RNA (878/5,960), and 45% (393/878) initiated treatment within six months. Adoption: By the end of 2020, DBS via assisted registration was available at 36 community sites and 21 prisons. Implementation: 90% of DBS cards arriving at the laboratory had the three full spots required for testing; the proportion was higher in assisted (94%) compared to online (76%) registration.


The study demonstrated the feasibility of DBS testing for HIV and HCV in key populations including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, and demonstrated the utility of DBS in the prison setting.

Access the full study results, published in BMC Infectious Diseases, here.