New Mexico Health Officials Concerned That Residents, Especially Hispanics, Do Not Undergo Regular HIV Testing
New Mexico Department of Health officials are concerned that many people who live in the state do not undergo regular HIV testing and are diagnosed only when they become very sick, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports. In 2004, 63% of New Mexicans newly diagnosed with AIDS did not know they were HIV-positive, according to a state health department report released in February. In addition, Hispanic New Mexicans are more likely than whites to be diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at the same time, according to the report (Heil, Santa Fe New Mexican, 4/15). Complacency and stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS make many people reluctant to undergo HIV testing, which is anonymous and provided at no cost at public health offices, according to state health department officials. Lily Foster, the HIV/AIDS surveillance coordinator and an epidemiologist at the state health department, said the "trend" in the avoidance of HIV testing is a "shock," according to the AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram (AP/Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 4/17). "Hispanics are rising in the proportion of [simultaneous diagnosis] cases they contribute to the state," Foster said, adding, "Not only are there more cases, but they're coming in sicker. Hispanics definitely have much more concurrent diagnoses."
As a result of the trend, the health department plans to launch new prevention efforts, the New Mexican reports. "Sometimes the blanket approach of targeting the general population isn't the most effective approach," Dr. Joan Baumbach, a state health department medical epidemiologist, said. In order to develop a new approach to prevention, state health department employees will conduct study sessions in local communities to understand the reasons many Hispanics are not undergoing HIV testing. The state health department and the New Mexico Community Planning and Action Group -- which comprises HIV/AIDS patients, prevention providers and representatives of affected communities -- in the "near future" plan to launch a "more targeted" approach to promoting HIV/AIDS prevention, with a focus on Hispanic men who have sex with men, according to the New Mexican (Santa Fe New Mexican, 4/15).