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TMCNet:  AHF: Nevada Sues to Stop Routine HIV Testing

[May 22, 2014]

AHF: Nevada Sues to Stop Routine HIV Testing

LAS VEGAS --(Business Wire)--

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which recently opened two rapidly growing free AIDS treatment clinics in Las Vegas and also brought its innovative free mobile HIV testing program to the Silver State, will challenge a Nevada lawsuit that seeks to halt AHF's HIV testing program from operating in the state. The Nevada Attorney General filed a civil complaint on behalf of Tracey D. Green, M.D., Nevada's Chief Medical Officer, in District Court, Clark County, Nevada earlier today (#A-14-701057-C) seeking, "…to enjoin the Defendant [AIDS Healthcare Foundation] from operating a medical laboratory in the State of Nevada without a license or registration issued by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health as required by NRS 652.080 or NRS 652.235 and NAC 652.170 or 652.175."

"AHF's mobile van is certified by the federal government through what is known as a 'CLIA waiver' to administer HIV rapid tests, which are a fast, easy, reliable way to help people know whether they are HIV positive. In fact, the oral version of the test is available at drug stores. Nevada law makes it clear that the state cannot impose regulations on HIV rapid tests that are more stringent than CLIA, yet the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public and Behavioral Health, insists that AHF comply with unnecessary licensing and registration processes that pose barriers to community organizations wishing to conduct rapid tests," said Laura Boudreau, Chief of Operations for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "We will challenge this legal action to halt our HIV testing progra and will also press Nevada to update its outdated licensing practices to conform to state and federal law."

In order to address an unmet need for HIV/AIDS care and treatment in Nevada, AIDS Healthcare Foundation recently opened two free-and rapidly growing-AIDS treatment clinics in greater Las Vegas. The clinics, in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, first opened in December and since February, the census of patients seen has doubled each month. As part of AHF's efforts to address the unmet need for HIV/AIDS services in Nevada, AHF also brought its free HIV testing program-including the mobile testing vans-to the Silver State, in order to provide an important health service-testing people and linking them to medical care-for free.

"Since March, AHF has tested scores of individuals in and around Los Vegas, identifying a number as HIV positive and linking them to care," said Whitney Engeran Cordova, Senior Director of Public Health for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who oversees AHF's domestic HIV testing program. In 2013, AHF provided over 130,000 free HIV tests nationwide. "Currently, HIV testing offered in Clark County is not offered after hours, no mobile services are available, and in many cases, people are charged up to $70 for the test. All of the above are significant barriers to finding folks that need services. We look forward to working with the community to make sure testing services are widely available and free. We cannot tackle HIV unless we are able to find those living with HIV and assist them in getting care."

"Nevada is out of synch with current AIDS control/prevention best practices, which is all about identifying those who don't know they have HIV," said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "The Federal government doesn't require the laboratory licensing that Nevada seeks to impose on us and other local Nevada groups that would like to do community-based HIV testing. If we really want to stop this disease, we need people in the field, finding people where they work and play. It is a shame the state has decided to spend taxpayer money on a lawsuit to stop us from doing this important public health work."

HIV/AIDS in Nevada

According to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, there were 8,390 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nevada by the end of 2010, of which 7,105 were in Clark County. Men accounted for 83% of the total number of cases throughout the state, and 51.6% of the reported cases were in white people. The Southern Nevada Health District reported 26 new HIV infections in the southern region of the state in October 2013 alone. As of October 2013, there have been 340 HIV/AIDS diagnoses in southern Nevada, 226 of which were HIV infections and 2 of which were in children under the age of 13.

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to nearly 300,000 individuals in 32 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe.

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