Lowndes HIV Rate Among Highest in Georgia | Valdosta Today
Lowndes HIV Rate Among Highest in Georgia
VALDOSTA, Ga. - Lowndes County is among three South Georgia counties with the highest rates of HIV diagnosis in the state.
Tift, Lowndes and Colquitt are among the group of Georgia counties with the highest rates of HIV, according to a new study released by Health Testing Centers, a nationwide network of health screening centers, based in Fort Lauderdale,Fla. ( Tifton Gazette)
Meanwhile, HIV rates remain extreme in Georgia, specifically among minorities.
The state ranks the highest in new diagnoses in the U.S. and third highest in HIV risk, according to a new study released by Health Testing Centers, behind Ohio and Nevada. The South leads all regions in highest risk.
The state ranks the highest in new diagnoses in the U.S. and third highest in HIV risk behind Ohio and Nevada, according to a new study released by Health Testing Centers, a nationwide network of health screening centers, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
African-Americans and Latinos far exceed the rates of diagnosis for all racial and ethnic groups. In Georgia, African-Americans show wide disparities in HIV diagnosis; in 2016, 68.5% of all individuals in Georgia living with HIV were black, according to data from AIDSVu, an online mapping tool maintained by Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health.
Daniel Driffin, HIV activist with a focus on black, gay men, became involved in public health in 2008, after college while going to nursing school, when he learned his HIV status. In 2015, he co-founded THRIVE SS, a nonprofit organization that supports and connects black, gay and bisexual men living with HIV.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017, black, gay and bisexual men accounted for 26% of new HIV diagnoses nationwide. In Georgia in 2016, more than 77 percent of males living with HIV had it transmitted to them through same-gender sexual contact.
Racial disparities in access to medical care, prevention programs and community resources, Driffin said, are driving these rates.
The South Health District of the department of public health is tapping into many different community resources to provide HIV outreach and prevention. The district serves residents in 10 counties including some with the highest HIV rates and most diverse communities. The district is spreading outreach to churches and even migrant worker camps.
Althea Daniels, healthcare program consultant supervisor, said most of their outreach targets African-American and Latino communities as well as gay and bisexual men who are disproportionately affected by HIV. ( Tifton Gazette)
The current political climate surrounding immigration issues makes reaching out to the Latino community specifically tricky, Daniels said. Some people are weary of putting their personal information down on confidentiality forms necessary to receive treatment. When attending cultural events, an interpreter is present.
"Building trust is really important, really with anyone," she said, "but especially with Latino and African-American populations."
Sharah Denton, prevention program manager, said the district is looking to partner more with faith-based communities but beliefs sometimes hinder prevention outreach.
Religious and cultural stigmas surrounding HIV diagnosis remain a leading factor in not seeking diagnosis and lack of prevention.
"We have never seen any disease with this much societal stigma as HIV," Driffin said. "Stigma keeps individuals from learning HIV status, keeps people from getting care, it keeps them from medication. It's a round and round and round cycle."
Stigma leads to death, he said. In 2016, there were 772 deaths of individuals with HIV.
The issue of Medicaid expansion has been touched upon in many conversations surrounding high rates of uninsured in Georgia and high rates of maternal mortality. The HIV epidemic in the state, Driffin said, should be included when considering some version of coverage expansion.
"If we can provide medical care for people with HIV first, that will go a long way," he said.
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