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African Americans Hit Hardest by HIV/AIDS

By Paul Boger | Published 10 Feb 2014 08:30am | comments
African Americans account for more than three quarters of all newly diagnosed HIV cases in Mississippi; making them eight times more likely than whites to contract the disease. As MPB's Paul Boger reports some  are calling the disproportionate a civil rights issue.
African Americans make up only 37 percent of the population in Mississippi, but a report released by the Mississippi Department of health shows they account for more that 77 percent of all newly diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS. 
Doctor Thomas Dobbs is with the Mississippi Department of Health. He says there are a myriad of reasons why HIV has hit the African American community harder that others.
"They're much more likely to not be tested and know they're HIV status. They're more likely to encounter a partner who is HIV positive, who is unaware of their status, and they will be less likely to have access to healthcare. So some of the things that are driving this are risk factors and lack of prevention, but lack of knowledge, lack of understanding of the disease process, lack of testing and also stigma -- people not want to know their status." said Dobbs.
Statistics also show that African American men are more than twice as likely to be affected by the disease than women.
The disproportionately high rate of transmission has caught the attention of civil rights leaders like Reverend Al Sharpton. 
"We are disproportionately those that are dying, those that are in jeopardy, those that are sic, yet we are not getting the resources, we are not getting the kind of health and medical attention. We are talking about that to really bring this awareness and hopefully this pressure to the legislators that we need to deal with this as a civil rights issue."
Besides more reliable access to healthcare, civic leaders are also focusing on education. The NAACP's Reverend Keron Sadler says she has seen success by reaching out and educating the African American community.
"It is a conversation that a lot of black faith leaders are not yet totally comfortable with having. We took those challenges, we took those barriers, and we said 'now that we understand what some of your concerns are, here are the resources, here are the tools that can help move you beyond that place of being uncomfortable. You have the facts you know how it's transmitted, you have the statistics, so lets move forward." said Sadler.
Mississippi has the seventh highest rate of newly diagnosed HIV and AIDS cases in the nation.  




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