Despite Atlanta being a city that is leading the way with African American businesses, philanthropy, entertainment and politics, there is one aspect that is tearing the city down: its HIV rate. It’s gotten so bad that it is a public health emergency.
Recent reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that the HIV/AIDS rates in Atlanta, particularly in the downtown area, are as bad as some third-world African countries, according to Atlanta Daily World.
The CDC estimates that 1 in 51 Georgians will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime. As of 2013, Atlanta’s metro population accounted for more than half of Georgia’s total population, with 5.6 million people.
“Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban,” via a statement from Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research.
Since starting a routine testing program in 2013, the nationally-renowned medical center, Grady Hospital, has diagnosed an average of two or three patients with HIV every single day.
In 2014 it was reported that Atlanta had the fifth highest rate of new HIV infections. Atlanta area zip codes with highest HIV rates are 30302, 30303, 30308, 30309 and 30310.
Other data in the study suggests that the Southern region of the United States as a whole presents the highest risk of contracting HIV. Men who have sex with men had a 1 in 6 risk of getting the disease while heterosexual men possessed a 1 in 473 risk.
“Atlanta is like New York was in the ’80s in the need to develop a public health response to a serious [HIV] epidemic,” said Devin-Barrington Ward, an advocate based in Washington, D.C., who helped organize the Georgia symposium.
The issue is particularly acute for young gay and bisexual black men. One Emory University study followed a group of Atlanta-area men ages 18 to 39 who had sex with men during 24 months and found that 12.1 percent of the black men under 25 contracted HIV, compared with only 1.0 percent of the white men under 25 — “one of the highest figures for HIV incidence ever recorded in a population in the resource-rich world,” according to the National AIDS Manual. What’s more, AIDS is the leading cause of death among black people in Georgia ages 35 to 44, according to the state Department of Public Health.
A lack of knowledge about the disease is also to blame for the high numbers. Nearly 20 percent of Georgians said in a recent survey that they thought HIV could be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass, for example.
There’s also the fact that Georgia has a county-based health department system, and with 159 counties, the state is second in number of counties only to Texas, which has 254. This makes it hard to coordinate and monitor public health efforts.
Please keep in mind that these rates for Atlanta are specific to HIV only. There are many other lists out there that outline states and cities who have higher rates for STD’s. But speaking to HIV in America among those 18 – 39 years old, Atlanta is leading.