ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — More than 9,500 Mississippians are now living with HIV, and as of 2009, according to the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), Mississippi and Florida had the highest HIV rates among individuals 13 to 19 years old (out of 37 states and five US territories reporting HIV infection statistics).
Jackson itself had the third highest HIV infection rate of all U.S. metropolitan areas that reported HIV infection to Centers for Disease Control in 2009. One in five Mississippians living with HIV are not even aware of their positive status.
African-Americans are especially hard-hit. Seventy-three percent of Mississippi HIV cases are among African-Americans — nearly 7,000 individuals. Mississippi has about 500 HIV cases reported each year, but only African-American males showed an increased infection rate in 2010.
Dr. Nicholas Mosca, STD/HIV director, believes that increased cooperation and education efforts among partners working in communities most impacted by HIV will be a key strategy in decreasing infection rates.
“Our goal is to build a foundation for a better understanding and to create grassroots partnerships with organizations in the community, including churches and other faith-based groups,” said Mosca. “People in these organizations must know in order to act, and we hope to provide the knowledge they need.”
Mosca added that providing HIV positive people with the medical care they need will both prolong their life spans and make it less likely that they will infect their partners. In order to do so, people must first become aware of their positive status. MSDH provides free, confidential HIV testing and information at all local health departments, and provides testing at community events through its mobile health clinic.