By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is making an effort to draw attention to the fact that Birmingham, Alabama has 17th Highest Rate of HIV Infection in the entire Nation. The group says that they are trying to advance awareness of the epidemic in Birmingham, reduce the stigma of testing positive for the disease and get more people that are infected the treatments that they need.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control, Birmingham ranks 17th of all major metropolitan areas with a high rate of HIV infection per 100,000 people. According to a 2014 HRC survey, reducing the stigma of HIV/AIDS is a top priority for LGBT people in Alabama.
HRC Alabama Director R. Ashely Jackson said in a written statement, “The main reason HIV continues to spread is because of stigma. By talking openly about HIV, we take it out of silence. We must have these conversations about maintaining good health.”
Director Jackson said, “Rates of transmission are especially high among young gay and bisexual men of color and transgender women. Often, they are unable to seek healthcare because of stigma, discrimination and social barriers that are largely out of their control.”
The CDC report is based on data collected in 2011 and includes people from across the country with a diagnosis of HIV infection regardless of the disease’s stage. According to the CDC, Atlanta has the worst metropolitan area for the illness in the South at (#8) nationally, followed by Dallas at (#16), and Birmingham at (#17). Even though the AIDS threat has been well documented according to the CDC, another 50,000 people become HIV positive each year.
The HRC, in partnership with the Greater Than AIDS campaign, produced an information guide to engage the LGBT community about ways to confront HIV, including use of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). PrEP involves taking a once-daily pill to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. It is an FDA-approved prescription medication sold under the brand name Truvada. Many private insurance companies and Medicaid cover PrEP.
The HRC and the CDC urge everyone to get educated on the basics about HIV/AIDS, including information on how to protect yourself and others and share that information with your friends and family members including using social media.
When first confronted with the AIDS epidemic in the 1990s, most of us believed an HIV diagnosis was a death sentence, now there are more treatment options than ever before.
Jackson said, “Now we have more resources available to prevent and treat HIV than ever before. Early diagnosis and treatment can dramatically improve health, extend life and help prevent the spread of the disease.”
According to a 2014 survey of LGBT Alabamians 46 percent don’t consider their doctor LGBT-friendly and 40 percent have experienced harassment in public establishments. HRC Alabama is working across the state to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections and build more inclusive intuitions.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) describes themselves as the nation’s largest civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.