Atlanta Ranks Third in New HIV Infections Nationwide, CDC Data Shows |

Atlanta Ranks Third in New HIV Infections Nationwide, CDC Data Shows

Atlanta and the South have long had high rates of HIV, other sexually transmitted infections and chronic diseases in general.

via: Fox 5 Atlanta

The most recent data on new cases of HIV paints a startling picture of an ongoing health crisis in the Southeast.

Metro Atlanta ranked third behind Memphis and Miami for the highest number of new cases with more than 1,500 reported in 2021.

“We’ve seen that HIV is growing in the south and Atlanta has some of the highest numbers in the south,” said Jeff Cheek, Fulton County’s director of HIV Elimination.

New cases accounted for more than half of the 2,371 reported in Georgia in 2021.

Cheek pointed to stigmas around the virus and access to care as ongoing issues contributing to those high numbers.

“We do not have good health coverage for anyone—not just those with HIV disease and so that’s why it’s so important for us to look at Medicaid expansion to see what we can do to help people,” he explained.

For Thrive Atlanta co-founder Larry Scott-Walker, the numbers were disturbing, but didn’t come as much of a shock.

“I am jarred by it, I am saddened by it but also motivated… my work is fueled by that…it’s not surprising given the fact that Georgia is one of 10 states who didn’t expand Medicaid,” he stated.

Scott-Walker, who received his HIV diagnosis in 2007, said he helped found Thrive with the goal of meeting the needs of patients in Georgia and across the country where access to resources is limited.

“We wanted to do something that centered Black culture that centered Black queer men…raising our rates of undetectability in our communities…having stigma reducing conversations with our friends,” he said.

He told FOX 5 they’ve taken those conversations to the nation’s capitol, lobbying for improvements in the healthcare system.

While Cheek said the numbers were concerning, he also mentioned that his office has observed an increase in individuals taking medications needed to slow the spread of the virus.

“We’ve had a six percent increase in the number of people that are getting in and getting suppressed, and so we’re moving the needle in the right direction,” he said.

Scott-Walker said they plan to continue advocating at the state and national levels for Medicaid expansion.

For more information on how to get connected with resources in metro Atlanta, click here.

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