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 help individuals get diagnosed earlier in their disease process, when treatment is 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. 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.

In honor of National HIV Testing Day on June 27, the Department of Health and the University of New Mexico encourages health-care providers to consider whether and how HIV testing could be expanded in their practices.

"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 law and the new strategy for offering HIV testing in routine medical care settings. The New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center is a federally funded agency that educates health-care providers statewide about all aspects of HIV disease.

"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," said Dr. Elaine Thomas, medical director of UNM's New Mexico AIDS Education and Training Center.

The Department also follows the CDC's recommendation to focus on testing of individuals who are at greatest risk for contracting HIV. The Department contracts with providers across the state to provide free testing for all New Mexicans. All patients who receive HIV testing must consent verbally to the testing. There are 2,185 individuals known to be living with HIV or AIDS in New Mexico.


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322