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Saturday is World Aids Day and we look at the Impact of AIDS in Mississippi

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 30 Nov 2012 09:39am | comments

More than 9000 Mississippian's are currently living with HIV/AIDS. According to health officials many of them are not being treated. Tomorrow is World AIDS Day and as MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports the stigma of AIDS prevents many from getting tested.

 

 

When soul diva Betty Wright penned her classic hit "tonight is the night" She says it was meant to pay homage to the very first time she made love. But for Tugaloo College student Jacques Dixon the very first time was nothing to sing about.

 

"I started having sex in October, I got an HIV test in December and in January I found out I was HIV positive. So you just never know."

 

It's been six years since Dixon tested positive for HIV. Yet with regular doctor visits, medical treatments and faith in God  she is expected  to live a long healthy life. But Dr. Arti Barnes an HIV specialist with the State Department of Health says many  who have access to care  refuse treatment  because of the stigma associated with it.

 

"If you're not in care for HIV you're not on all these good meds. So having the best meds  available won’t make a difference if you're not on them. And I think the goal, the challenge for the community is to not stigmatize HIV so that  people feel comfortable going to an HIV clinic, being seen taking HIV meds and being proud to say I am on HIV treatment."

 

The stigma of HIV is so profound in Mississippi that it is estimated that only a small portion of those affected actually seek treatment. That's a major challenge for Mauda Monger works with the DELTA REGION AIDS EDUCATION AND TRAINING CENTER. She trains  hundreds of health professionals  to treat patients with HIV/AIDS.

 

"Simply because the idea of HIV/AIDS still in this day and time is linked to immoral or improper behavior so as a result not only are people going untreated, they’re going untested."

 

Of the 50 thousand new infections in the U.S. each year experts say one in four are young people between the ages of 13 and 24. Mississippians can get free HIV testing at local health departments throughout the state.  Lawayne Childrey MPB News.

 

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