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HIV Incidence Drops Drastically in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports that the number of HIV infections in Georgia has dropped 6% each year from 2008 to 2014.

Georgia is one of the states that have been hardest hit by HIV; in fact, back in 2013, Georgia ranked 5th out of the 50 states when it came to the number of HIV diagnoses. However, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has just reported that the number of HIV infections in the state has dropped by 6% each year over a six-year period (from 2008-2014).

According to the DPH, “Georgia is among eight states whose infection rate dropped significantly during the six-year period.” The DPH attributes this success to “effective prevention and treatment strategies.”

In the press release, J. Patrick O’Neal, MD, director of Health Protection for DPH, said, “This is very encouraging news for Georgia as we work to eliminate HIV/AIDS in the state. It also reinforces what we’ve said all along that linking patients with treatment is essential to reducing HIV transmission in Georgia.”

Researchers from all over the world have been making advancements when it comes to strengthening the prevention and treatment of HIV. One of the biggest successes is the development of antiretroviral therapy (ART), a therapy that works to suppress the virus so that infected individuals can live longer. In fact, according to the DPH’s 2014 analysis, thanks to effective treatment, “the number of persons living with HIV has steadily increased.” Gone are the days where an HIV diagnosis equated to a death sentence. Furthermore, ART also works to reduce the rate of viral transmission to others. According to the DPH, an infected individual is 96% less likely to transmit the virus to others if she or he adheres to their treatment regimen.

The DPH’s Office of HIV/AIDS has been working hard to not only identify those who are infected quickly, but to link them with treatment that can potentially save their lives. The DPH also mentions other prevention programs in place, such as the Comprehensive HIV Prevention Program, the Ryan White Part B Program, and the Georgia Care and Prevention in the United States Initiative (CAPUS). According to the official website, “Georgia’s CAPUS Project is exploring new, more efficient, and more effective systems to improve HIV testing, linkage to and retention in care, and antiretroviral adherence, specifically targeted toward high risk minority populations.”

The DPH also shared that Georgia is not the only state that has experienced a decrease in infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of new HIV infections occurring each year within the United States has, overall, decreased by 18% between 2008 and 2014 (from about 45,700 infections to 37,600 infections). The states that were reported to have experienced “significant” drops in infections each year were the following: Washington, D.C. (10%), Maryland (about 8%), Pennsylvania (about 7%), Georgia (about 6%), New York (about 5%), North Carolina (about 5%), Illinois (about 4%), and Texas (about 2%).

When it comes to the Georgia DPH’s future efforts, William Lyons, director, DPH Office of HIV/AIDS, said, “DPH’s Office of HIV/AIDS will continue to set aggressive goals to further reduce HIV incidence in our most vulnerable populations. Initiatives to meet these goals include implementing the South’s first statewide strategy addressing HIV among gay and bisexual men as well as expanding the HIV Linkage to Care Program.”