HIV infection remains a serious public health issue in the state of Georgia. In 2015, Georgia was ranked the fifth-highest in the nation for new HIV diagnoses, after Florida, California, Texas and New York. There were over 2,500 new diagnoses of HIV in 2015 in Georgia and the majority were men. The highest percentage of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses was seen among those aged 30 to 39. Atlanta ranked fifth among metro areas for new HIV cases with a rate of 25.8 new diagnoses for every 100,000 residents — more than twice the national rate.
Monitoring the HIV epidemic and understanding the burden of HIV in Georgia are essential for the 2020 National HIV/AIDS Strategy goals of reducing HIV infections, increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for those with HIV, reducing HIV-related health disparities and achieving a more coordinated response to the epidemic.
Opportunities to curb the rate of new infections in Georgia include:
Treatment as Prevention (TasP): prescribing antiretroviral medications to those who are living with HIV in order to reduce the amount of virus in their blood to undetectable levels so that there is less risk of transmission of HIV
Increasing the number of people who are tested for HIV and made aware of their diagnosis
Access to quality health care, including insurance coverage, medication accessibility and increasing the number of qualified HIV providers available to give care
Addressing mental illness and behavioral health issues, poverty, stigma, homelessness, food insecurity, homophobia and health literacy, which will help with better health outcomes and access to health care
Decriminalizing HIV, which will lead to more people becoming aware of their diagnosis without fear of prosecution
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): medication, along with a comprehensive prevention strategy, to decrease the risk of acquiring HIV
Awareness of PrEP among high-risk populations must be increased and affordability of this program must be explained
There also is a need for increased provider awareness, knowledge and willingness to prescribe PrEP, along with comfortably discussing sexual health with an affirming and non-judgmental approach
As each of these factors is addressed, access to quality care and treatment can become more ensured, and we can move closer to ending the epidemic. As HIV healthcare providers, we work daily to ensure that we move closer to these goals.