HIV/AIDS affecting many in Georgia-further education could reduce statistics

Atlanta, Georgia ( – Health News Report) – The state Division of Public Health reports that the number of Georgians living with HIV/AIDS has increased almost 27 percent from 2004 to 2007, to 32,740 infected individuals; and research for the state of Georgia found that 71 percent of the population was HIV/AIDS positive in 2006. A report by the Southern AIDS Coalition said inadequate health care for HIV/AIDS patients in the rural South is disorganized and damaging. The Black AIDS Institute stated that if black America were a country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people with the virus. These results are shocking.

This increase is due in part to how difficult it becomes to reach the majority infected. This is because the focus has been so strongly geared towards the white, gay male; when findings show it is more rural, young, black females. Feelings of shame and guilt often prevent them from speaking up and getting help. Yet this is only concealing the problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a revised estimate this month that 56,000 people nationally were newly infected with HIV in 2006, 40 percent more than previously estimated. And according to the state public health division, one-third of newly diagnosed HIV cases in Georgia in 2006 were among 20-29 year olds. HIV/AIDS affecting the young adult population is partially because the outreach is difficult since so much sex education in Georgia is abstinence centered. Many schools are not even allowed to have safe-sex education talks and the young teens are not being tested before sleeping with a partner.

Although the education and outreach seems to be reaping no benefits, it is not falling on deaf ears. Many infected with the virus are living longer due to greater technologies and medicines for the virus. State officials say they are making progress increasing testing and working with community leaders to execute a direct and effective plan to further prevent HIV in urban and rural areas. But these high numbers will only be reduced with better organization and outreach into rural areas, especially targeting the young African-American women who are in dire need of education and safe-sex principles.

The following are helpful resources:
STAND Students Together Against Negative Decisions is an HIV prevention program developed in rural Middle Georgia. The course trains teen leaders to be role models and peer educators, focusing on both abstinence and education about sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy prevention. SisterLove The Atlanta-based HIV prevention program targets African-American women in low-income neighborhoods. It holds Healthy Love parties that celebrate a woman’s sexuality while stressing their right to demand safe sex.

Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta In March, Julian Bond, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and the Rev. Raphael Warnock were tested for HIV publicly at the church, highlighting the need for more testing among African-Americans. State of Georgia The state Division of Public Health recently launched the “HERstory” marketing campaign targeting HIV prevention for African-American women.

Staff Reporter

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