The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) have reached a settlement in a civil complaint filed in mid-May on behalf of Tracey D. Green, M.D., Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer, that sought to halt AHF’s free HIV testing on mobile testing vans in the state, which Nevada’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health, alleged was being conducted by AHF without proper Nevada state licensure.
The settlement, finalized in early June, allows AHF, which recently opened two HIV healthcare centers in Las Vegas, to continue its free rapid HIV testing on mobile vans in Nevada under its Nevada clinic licenses. AHF will continue to follow quality assurance protocols based on CDC guidelines and AHF’s best practices. The protocol will be under the supervision of Dr. Mir Mohammad, Medical Director for AHF’s Nevada Healthcare Centers, with AHF’s Public Health Division overseeing the testing van’s day-to-day operation.
Importantly, the settlement helps other Nevada organizations who wish to do community-based rapid testing by clarifying that Nevada will not impose regulations on testing more stringent than that allowed under the federal “Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments,” or “CLIA” law. Under CLIA, organizations can obtain a waiver certificate to allow them to perform certain approved rapid HIV tests without undergoing full laboratory licensing, because these tests are safe, reliable and easily administered, as long as the organization implements a quality assurance plan consistent with federal guidance.
“Over 25% of those living with HIV do not know it. If we are going to end this epidemic, we need to help those living with HIV know that their status and link them into care. Community based testing is an important part of the answer. Reducing transmissions is a benefit to all Nevadans. We are pleased that we could work out an agreement that allows for testing and charts a path for more HIV screening,” said Whitney Engeran Cordova, Senior Director of Public Health for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, who oversees AHF’s domestic HIV testing program. “We know this model works,” he added. “In 2013, AHF provided over 130,000 free HIV tests nationwide. We are excited the Division will be working with AHF and other organizations to make it easier for Nevadans to access rapid HIV testing,”
A Nevada law enacted in 2009 provides that Nevada regulations governing rapid HIV testing may not be more stringent than CLIA. To meet the law’s intent to promote more access to rapid HIV testing, the Division will propose regulations by June 2, 2015 that loosen restrictions on HIV rapid testing, consistent with Nevada law, while still assuring the quality and safety of testing. Furthermore, it will respond to organizations seeking to perform rapid testing but do not have a staff physician and assist them in obtaining agreements with the state to allow testing, provided the organizations meet training and quality assurance criteria consistent with CLIA.
“Through this agreement, the Division is seeking to expand access to testing for HIV while still monitoring the quality of this critical testing and ensuring that positive results are reported to the health authority,” said Kyle Devine, Bureau Chief, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health.
“We are very pleased to have reached a mutually satisfactory settlement with Nevada officials so quickly—one that will ultimately benefit the health and well-being of Nevadans seeking to more easily access free HIV testing in the state,” said Laura Boudreau, Chief Counsel for Operations for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “
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 Caucasian. 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.
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.
Miriam Hodgman is originally from San Francisco. She previously was the communications coordinator for the largest hunger-relief organization in Sonoma County, California. She has a bachelor’s degree in American history, with a minor in American Indian studies, from San Francisco State University, and has a master’s degree in public administration from Sonoma State University. She enjoys training a variety of martial arts.