Lack of HIV treatment funding in "Black America" is enabling epidemic infection rates

A 2016 prediction from the CDC estimated that 1 in 51 Georgians will contract HIV in their lifetime.

NewsOne | 5/14/2016, 12:01 p.m.
A 2016 prediction from the CDC estimated that 1 in 51 Georgians will contract HIV in their lifetime.

The HIV/AIDS rate is so high in certain areas of Atlanta that doctors are comparing it to that of developing African countries. The co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research Center, Dr. Carlos del Rio, was quoted as saying, “Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe.”

Recently released studies show that HIV/AIDS in Atlanta, Georgia is so widespread, doctors and scientists are calling it an epidemic and comparing it to the outbreak in New York during the 1980s.

A 2014 Emory University Center for AIDS report included the following statistics about the deadly disease:

Atlanta ranks fifth in new infections

The southern region of the United States has the highest risk of contracting HIV

1 in 6 men having sex with men risk infection

1 in 473 heterosexual men risk infection

A 2016 prediction from the CDC estimated that 1 in 51 Georgians will contract HIV in their lifetime, making Georgia only second in that regard to Louisiana.

Factors contributing to the increase in HIV infections in the African-American community include racial disparities in health care, poverty, the lack of HIV education, and the lack of funding for education and prevention programs.

On Thursday’s edition of NewsOne Now, Roland Martin spoke with an expert panel of guests about the shocking HIV/AIDS epidemic in Atlanta, why the disease seems to be spreading uncontrollably in the city, and what can be done to reverse the trend.

Dr. David Malebranche, a physician with expertise in men’s health, LGBT health, and the clinical prevention and management of HIV and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), explained there is not a lot of mobilization taking place to confront the so-called epidemic in Atlanta.

“You’ll see certain churches, certain community organizations getting involved in things, but as far as this global outrage about what’s going on in Atlanta, you don’t see that as commonly as you would in other cases,” he said.

Dr. Malebranche added that some of the statistics released about the epidemic are, in his opinion, “only estimates.” He said the problems highlighted by the recent reports have been “going on with gay and bisexual men since 2001.”

“This is absolutely nothing new, but people are going to act brand new as if this is something that they’ve never heard about.”

Martin questioned whether the infection rates in Atlanta are comparable to Zimbabwe and inquired as to who should be leading the charge to reverse this alarming trend.

Malebranche explained the response should be launched from a “group level,” in which the LGBT community and the medical community band together.

While he believes this is viable solution to slowing infection rates, Dr. Malebranche also believes the medical community is at fault. “When you look at the medical community, it’s not going to be representative of the epidemic,” he said. “Most of the providers and researchers that are doing the work in treating and trying to prevent HIV infections are non-Black personnel, and so there’s a disconnect sometimes with cultural competency.”

He said many in the medical profession are not able to draw the parallel of looking at the person they are treating and saying “This could be my aunt, this could be my uncle, this could be my brother, this could be my father.”