The city of Atlanta, despite its national and international ranking as a progressive city that embraces diversity, has experienced some serious growing pains when it comes to issues such as crime, and most particularly, sexually transmitted diseases.
According to a recent report, the Capital of the New South is ranked No. 1 among U.S. cities when it comes to the rate of new HIV cases diagnosed. Moreover, by the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one third have advanced to clinical AIDS, which greatly lessons the chances of survival from the disease.
Since starting a routine testing program in 2013, the nationally-renowned medical center, Grady Hospital, has diagnosed an average of two or three patients with HIV every single day.
“This is something that keeps me awake at night in Atlanta,” Dr. Abigail Hankin-Wei said, according to WABE.
Hakin-Wei is head of the FOCUS HIV testing program at Grady Hospital. The hospital also has the distinction of being the only emergency department in the city that offers a HIV test to every patient regardless of why they came in.
“When we diagnose patients with HIV, the first time we are telling them they’ve been infected with HIV, we know that among our patients at Grady, nearly half of them have AIDS the day we diagnose them,” said Hankin-Wei.
Officials say there are at least 50 places you can get tested in the Atlanta area.
“Despite that, there are patients who aren’t going to get those tests. And they aren’t going for a decade,” Hankin-Wei said to WABE.
According to studies, you can live eight to 10 years for untreated HIV before it advances to clinical AIDS. Across Georgia, the study concludes, about a third of the people who find out they’re positive fall into this category of late diagnosis.
While individuals definitely bear a brunt of the blame for not getting tested, the state of Georgia has done very little to help the situation…
Dazon Dixon Diallo is the president of Sister Love, a community-based AIDS treatment and advocacy group in Atlanta.
“We shouldn’t even be talking about AIDS anymore these days, and yet we still are,” Diallo said.
“It’s not acceptable to have a zero line item for HIV prevention … It’s unacceptable to not have expanded Medicaid to include HIV testing. It’s not acceptable to have any health department in the state of Georgia that’s currently not trained, equipped and implementing rapid testing … You want me to go on? It’s just a lot,” she said.