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AIDS in Mississippi

by Keith Burton - GCN      Filed 12/1/06

AIDS is one of the world's most devastating diseases. In inflicts people regardless of race or social standing but it does have cultural and behavioral distinctions that are revealed in the statistics. In Mississippi, AIDS is found much more prevalently in the Africa-America community, but they are not alone in their suffering.

AIDS  is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which attacks the body’s immune system, leaving its host open to infection. HIV disease is spread through contact with body fluids, typically through sexual contact. Once infected, the symptoms can sometimes take years to manifest themselves.

There are over 8,300 men, women and children living with HIV disease in Mississippi and over a million people in the United States.  There are more who are infected but do not know it.  The CDC encourages everybody who is sexually active to make HIV testing a part of their routine health care.

GCN recently asked for more information on the impact of AIDS in Mississippi. We wanted to know the specifics.

According to figures compiled by Joy Sennett, the Director of the Office of Communicable Diseases at the Mississippi Department of Health, as of December 31, 2005, the most recent figures available, Mississippi has a total of 8,330 people living with HIV disease. Of these:

  • 5,711 are men and are 2,619 women

  • 5,855 were African Americans, 2,072 were white, and 547 were divided between other races.

  • Ninety four of the 8,330 people reported as living with HIV disease are between the ages of <1 – 12.

Number reported by year:

  • 2001 – 659

  • 2002 – 623

  • 2003 – 625

  • 2004 – 607

  • 2005 – 577

There is no cure for HIV disease, but people can protect themselves from HIV disease by practicing the ABC method: Abstinence from sex outside of marriage or a committed relationship, Being faithful to one’s spouse or partner, and consistent and correct use of Condoms in all sexual activity. Of these three precautions, MDH  officials say abstinence is the only guaranteed protection from HIV.

The Mississippi Department of Health offers free, confidential HIV testing at all of its local health departments, and the agency’s health educators work around the state to inform the public about the disease: how it is acquired, its effects, and what can be done to control the disease in their communities.

Additionally, Mississippi, like many states, operates an AIDS Drug Assistance Program that is able to assist limited income individuals in getting the medicines they need.

To learn more about preventing HIV disease, or to be tested for the disease, contact your local health department clinic, or call the MDH toll-free AIDS hotline: 1-800-826-2961.

December 1st is recognized around the world as World AIDS Day. For AIDS sufferers, everyday is such a day.

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