Washington— Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights, is bringing additional attention to the HIV epidemic in Jackson, Mississippi to advance awareness, reduce the stigma, and increase treatment of HIV within the LGBT community. According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control, Jackson ranks fourth of all major metropolitan areas with a high rate of HIV infection per 100,000 people. HRC will advance awareness and prevention by working with partner organizations across the state. A 2014 HRC survey shows reducing the stigma of HIV/AIDS is a top priority for LGBT Mississippians.
“The main reason HIV continues to spread is because of stigma. By talking openly about HIV, we take it out of silence,” said HRC Mississippi Director Rob Hill. “We must have these conversations about maintaining good health.”
The CDC’s report uses data collected in 2011 and includes people from across the country with a diagnosis of HIV infection regardless of the disease’s stage. Jackson edges out other major metropolitan cities in the South such as Atlanta (#8), Dallas (#16) and Birmingham (#17). According to the CDC, about 50,000 people acquire HIV each year.
“Rates of transmission are especially high among young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women,” said Hill. “Often, they are unable to seek healthcare because of stigma, discrimination and social barriers that are largely out of their control.”
In June, HRC partnered with the Greater Than AIDS campaign to produce an information guide to engage the LGBT community about ways to confront HIV, including use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP involves taking a once-daily pill to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. It is an FDA-approved prescription medication sold under the brand name Truvada. Many private insurance companies cover PrEP as well as Medicaid.
The CDC also gives these tips to prevent HIV:
“Now we have more resources available to prevent and treat HIV than ever before,” said Hill. “Early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve health, extend life and help prevent the spread of the disease.”
A 2014 survey of LGBT Mississippians reveals almost half of respondents don’t consider their doctor LGBT-friendly and almost half experience harassment in public establishments. HRC Mississippi is working across the state to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections and build more inclusive intuitions.
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