AIDS at 30: In Kentucky, Disease Remains a Serious Threat
June 10, 2011
Thirty years into the epidemic, Kentucky residents living with HIV/AIDS have seen their life expectancy increase dramatically, yet they still struggle against stigma and the disease's unequal effect on the disenfranchised.
Kaiser Family Foundation data rank Kentucky's HIV infection rate 19th among states, and health experts say it logs one new infection daily. Still, stigma and misperception keep some Kentuckians from testing, said Dr. Robert Crosby, an AIDS researcher and chair of the University of Kentucky's Department of Health Behavior.
"We have clients in rural areas of Kentucky who hide their medication so if something happens to them, their family members won't find out" they are HIV-positive, said Mark Royse, executive director of AVOL, which offers AIDS education and support in 72 Kentucky counties.
Royse noted that persons who know they are HIV-positive are 90 percent less likely to infect others. However, according to Kentucky Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, 30 percent of Kentuckians testing positive for HIV have already progressed to AIDS. All the health departments in the state provide free HIV testing.
In the past, 100 percent of Kentucky residents diagnosed with HIV died within five years, Humbaugh said. Advances in therapy have nearly reversed that statistic: Now 82 percent are still alive five years after diagnosis. "The first thing we tell people is their life is not over," said Jessica DuMaurier, who heads the Lexington health department's HIV program. "We assure them it is not a death sentence."
Royce expects his prevention budget to be cut by 25 percent. He warned that a lack of testing and a reluctance to discuss AIDS create "the perfect storm" for the disease to spread.
06.05.2011; Mary Meehan
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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