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Study: N.M. gay men aren't getting HIV tests

Study: N.M. gay men aren't getting HIV tests

Because they are not getting tested routinely for HIV antibodies, many New Mexico gay men are diagnosed only when they get very sick, according to a recent state health department study. Of the residents diagnosed with AIDS in 2004, 63% were unaware they were HIV-infected, and two men were already in such poor health that they died in emergency rooms. Gay men make up the largest group of the state's 1,965 HIV-positive residents. The avoidance of testing appears to be a trend, said Lily Foster, the department's HIV/AIDS surveillance coordinator and epidemiologist. HIV-related complacency as well as stigma associated with testing positive could be keeping people from testing, speculated health officials. Testing access is not an issue, said Foster, since anonymous, free HIV-antibody screenings are offered through public health clinics. Since 1998, more Latino gay men than Anglo gay men diagnosed with HIV had already progressed to AIDS, a trend the department only recognized in 2003. "[Latinos] are rising in the proportion of cases they contribute to the state," said Foster. "Not only are there more cases, but they're coming in sicker." The problem is worst among gay Latino men ages 30 to 49 in Bernalillo County and southern New Mexico. The health department and New Mexico Community Planning and Action Group--an organizations of HIV-positive people, HIV-prevention workers, and affected communities--plan to focus more on gay Latino men. Initially, health department workers will hold study sessions in communities to assess why some sexually active Latino men who have sex with men are not getting tested. That will determine how HIV-prevention workers can best reach the men. (AP)

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