It’s hard to grasp that a city in the United States would have HIV rates similar to third-world countries in Africa. Despite relentless efforts from activists across the nation to spread awareness about STD testing and prevention, there are still cities that bypass the message — and in the south, Atlanta is at the epicenter of the epidemic.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV rates in Atlanta — particularly in the downtown area — are as bad as third-world African countries. The state of Georgia was third to having the highest risk of HIV individuals one in 51 estimated to being diagnosed in their lifetime. Washington, D.C. is number one at one in 13, while Maryland is second at one in 49.
It was also found in the study that Atlanta’s HIV mortality rate is four times the national average and the second-highest of all cities (behind Long Beach, California). And as Plus previously reported, one-third of people with HIV in Atlanta have already advanced to clinical AIDS by the time they are first diagnosed as HIV-positive.
Black men and women continue to be the most affected group, with one in 20 men and one in 48 women assessed to be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. In the capital city of Atlanta, the numbers are sobering.
"Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban," Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University's Center for AIDS Research, said to WSB-TV in Atlanta. "Don't have food on your table, have kids to take care of and somebody says you have HIV, that's just another, that's just another problem that you have… We should not be having an epidemic of that proportion in a country like ours. This is not Africa, we have resources."
In a separate study at Emory University, researchers followed a group of Atlanta-area men ages 18 to 39 who had sex with men — 12.1 percent of black men under 25 became HIV-positive within two years, compared to only one percent of white men. What’s worse, according to the Georgia state Department of Public Health, AIDS was the leading cause of death among black people ages 35 to 44 between 2007 and 2011.
While HIV rates continue to rise, it's time we all rise up to tackle head on. With so little access to care in rural parts of the south, there is no excuse. The time to act is now.