August 2, 2012
The number of HIV/AIDS patients being seen by Cobb County's HIV clinic has grown almost 20 percent since 2010, reflecting the area's growing and increasingly diverse population, say state and local officials. Cobb provides HIV care through its public health department, which also covers Douglas County.
The number of patients at the HIV clinic has grown from 628 in 2010 to likely 750 patients by year's end, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Cobb's HIV clinic is one of 32 run by GDPH.
"When I first got here in 1996, we had 80 clients," said Dr. Africa Alvarez-McLeod, medical director at the clinic. "We are now seeing many patients come to us with advanced [stage] disease and other diseases that need treatment immediately."
These types of cases, which used to be seen in more densely urban and multicultural DeKalb and Fulton counties, now are being seen in metro Atlanta areas like Cobb and out to the east in Augusta, officials said.
Male-to-male sexual HIV transmission accounts for more than 43 percent of Cobb cases, the county reported in 2010, with black men ages 18-24 particularly affected.
With fewer than 10 professional staff, including case managers and nurses, the Cobb clinic needs more funding and staff to do the work, state officials acknowledged. Previous leadership turnover there led to less experienced grant-writing, and funding formulas set by state and federal guidelines are outdated and no longer reflect the county's changing demographics. Improvements in these areas may help the clinic obtain more funding, said Patrick O'Neal, director of health protection for GDPH.