Mississippi Steps Up AIDS Fight
November 10, 2011
Mississippi has one of the nation's highest AIDS rates, and state officials are working to improve access to testing and treatment in a bid to bring it down.
More than 9,500 state residents are HIV-positive, with African Americans comprising 75 percent of the approximately 600 new cases annually. "That is something we are really moving forward and trying to work on," said Dr. Mary Currier, state health officer.
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report indicating roughly half of Mississippians testing HIV-positive are not receiving treatment -- a rate that is comparable to Botswana, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. The report details the state's "public health failures" in dealing with HIV/AIDS.
Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at HRW, said state officials should ensure that those with HIV have reliable access to care to keep the infection in check. "A lot of people didn't know that there are a variety of services available," she said. Mississippi runs a federally funded program to help HIV/AIDS patients whose treatment and medicines are not covered by Medicaid or Medicare.
McLemore wants the state to provide an informational packet on available resources to people newly testing positive. And she wants lawmakers to increase funding: "If they just tackled this thing and got a hold of it, they could really nip this in the bud and save in the long run," she said. "They know what they need to do."
Mississippi has sought a competitive grant for funding HIV programs. It also has partnered with three hospitals, including the University of Mississippi Medical Center, to offer rapid HIV testing to people seen at emergency rooms. Dr. Nicholas Mosca, HIV director for the state health department, said a grassroots campaign against HIV stigma is in the works as well.
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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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