New Mexicans Can Take Advantage of Free, Anonymous HIV Testing
August 17, 2006
Across the state, thousands of New Mexicans are taking advantage of free, anonymous HIV testing offered by public health officials. Of the 6,771 people tested for HIV in state public clinics in 2005, about 1,500 sought testing at New Mexico AIDS Services (NMAS).
HIV is growing fastest among younger Hispanic men in the state, many of whom have sex with other men but do not consider themselves gay. Reaching this population of men can be difficult, said Mark Clark, manager of community health promotions at NMAS. To minimize stigma, NMAS puts less of an emphasis on classifying people as gay or straight and focuses instead on preventing risky behavior.
"Even after 25 years, there is still a stigma attached to people who get tested," Clark said. "Automatically people think you're gay or an IV drug user. People tend to see HIV in terms of who it affects, instead of looking at behavior."
One hundred fifty-one HIV/AIDS cases were diagnosed last year in New Mexico. About 4,500 residents are living with the disease.
In general, the state's epidemic follows the pattern of other Rocky Mountain states, a fairly low rate of transmission affecting mostly gay men, said Dr. Steve Jenison, medical director of the Infectious Disease Bureau of the state Department of Health. HIV transmission among IV drug users is also low, likely thanks to New Mexico's free needle exchange program. The high number of community-based collaborative and outreach programs is another reason for the state's low rate, he said.
08.13.06; Tracy Dingmann
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.