Educating, Medicating, Addressing HIV Disparities in the Black Community

According to the CDC, Black women and Black men who have sex with men have the highest rate of HIV infections in the country.

Maisha Standifer, PhD, MPHMaisha Standifer, PhD, MPH
Director of Population Health at SHLI

By Faith Jessie, 11 Alive

The United States continues to battle the spread of HIV and Georgia ranks among the top five states in the country for people living with it.

The federal government has a goal to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. The Satcher Health Leadership Institute (SHLI) at Morehouse School of Medicine is sounding the alarm about disparities in the Black community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women and Black men who have sex with men have the highest rate of HIV infections in the country. In 2019 the CDC found more than 40% of new HIV cases were among Black people who make up just 13% of the U.S. population.

Southern states, like Georgia, have some of the highest rates of HIV infections. According to research from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, there were 57,561 people living with HIV in Georgia in 2020 and 1,977 people newly diagnosed with the virus.

“When we are talking about new cases, why are close to 60% of those cases Black women, when we make such a small amount [of the U.S population]? What is going on?” Dr. Maisha Standifer, the Director of Population Health at SHLI said.

Standifer is among the group of people with SHLI that are working to address the inequalities and barriers that exist in the Black community. She says the pillars they are focusing on include education, preventative treatment like PrEP and PEP and eliminating the negative stigma surrounding HIV among other efforts.

The institute is partnering with Gilead Life Sciences to address the disparities in Atlanta and other cities like Baton Rouge and New Orleans where disparities are also prevalent.

A big part of education is outreach. SHLI is joining other teams at HBCUs like Xavier University and Louisiana College of Pharmacy, Atlanta area churches, as well as health-focused events, to educate the Black community on testing, treatment, and care.

“The same efforts that we put in with cancer, the same efforts that we put in with any chronic illnesses such as diabetes, or respiratory ailments such as asthma, we need to place in the HIV space," she said. "No longer being stigmatized; no longer being judged -- this is impacting everyone in our community."

Standifer says those seeking more information on HIV and treatment can learn more online at the Georgia Department of Public Health, the CDC, and The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. SHLI will be hosting online webinars this summer.

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