New Mexico Department Of Health To Educate Providers On Change In HIV Testing Strategy

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More than half of New Mexicans don't find out they have HIV until they are already sick with the advanced form of the disease.

The New Mexico Department of Health expects a change in state law will increase the number of individuals getting tested so treatment can be provided sooner and be more effective.

The New Mexico Legislature passed an amendment this year to the New Mexico HIV Test Act that removed the requirement to provide extensive counseling before HIV tests, which was often an obstacle to HIV testing in busy primary-care practices. Patients will still need to verbally consent to being tested. The new law takes effect July 1.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that states offer HIV testing in routine medical care settings and that states amend their HIV test acts to remove obstacles to HIV testing in routine medical care settings. New Mexico is one of the first states in the United States to implement CDC's recommendations.

As part of the recognition of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, the Department of Health and the University of New Mexico are collaborating to inform health-care providers about the new legislation. Training is available to help providers consider whether and how HIV testing could be expanded in their practices.

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"Developing a strategy for diagnosing people earlier in their infection is likely to both improve the health and well-being of the person living with HIV and to decrease HIV-related health care costs by preventing the expenses associated with untreated advanced HIV disease," said Dr. Steve Jenison, medical director of the Department's Infectious Disease Bureau.

The Department of Health is working with its partners at the New Mexico AIDS Education & Training Center at UNM's Health Sciences Center to inform medical care providers of the new strategy for offering HIV testing in routine medical care settings. The AIDS Education and Training Center is a federally funded agency that educates health-care providers about all aspects of HIV disease.

"New HIV treatments can give infected people years of healthy life, especially if they get into care early," said Dr. Elaine Thomas, medical director of UNM's New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center. "New Mexico AETC is eager to support the state's providers in learning more about HIV today, implementing the CDC guidelines, and making HIV testing easier."

The Department of Health also follows the CDC's recommendation to identify the populations at greatest risk of HIV infection and provide them with targeted HIV prevention services, including testing. Currently the Department supports more than 70 sites across the state that offer free, anonymous HIV testing with pre-test and post-test counseling.

For more information about HIV or to find a free testing site closest to you, call the Department's HIV/AIDS Hotline at 1-800-545-2437 from 9 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

There are 2,185 individuals known to be living with HIV or AIDS in New Mexico.

Released by New Mexico Health Department

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