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HIV Rate High In Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Nov 2011 07:24pm | comments
A panel from an AIDS memorial quilt.

Today is World AIDS Day...a day intended to raise awareness and education about HIV and AIDS. In Mississippi, HIV infection and death rates are higher than the national average. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on efforts to slow the spread of AIDS through the State.

"That guy was from Jackson. There is a Lumberton there and Lumberton there. Lumberton, Mississippi. Two Lumbertons. So there are several Mississippi people here,"

A member of the Safe Harbor Church in Jackson, who asked that her name not be used, walks through the towering AIDS memorial quilts, pointing out panels commemorating Mississippians whohave died from the disease.

Mississippi has the sixth highest HIV infection rate in the nation, with almost 10-thousand confirmed cases.

45-year old Frank Monhead has been living with HIV for 23-years but he says it took him a decade to gather up the courage to tell his family because of the stigma surrounding HIV infection.

"The biggest thing that kept me from sharing was the fear of rejection. Fear of rejection of those that you love. Whether it is your parents, your siblings or friends, any one that is significant in your life, there is always that fear," Monhead said.

Rural areas inMississippi are experiencing some of the fastest growth in HIV rates...the infection rate in the Delta is 50-percent higher than the national rate....and African-Americans are disproportionately likely to become infected, representing more then 75-percent of new case.

Mississippi Department of Health HIV office director Dr. Nicholas Mosca says the department will introduce new programs next year to more directly combat the disease.

"We want to begin tailoring approaches to specific target audiences. In order to do that, our education must occur at three levels. The individual level. The group level. And the population level," Mosca said.

For example, Mosca wants pharmacies around the state to spread reliable information about HIV.

TheSafe Harborchurch member, where the memorial quilts hangin Jackson,thinks the portraits sown in fabric make HIV more personal.

"Probably the most important thing is that they didn't just die and go away. There is something left of them here,"



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