Georgia is one of 22 states that participated in the first collection of HIV-incidence data as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new national HIV-incidence surveillance system. The new system estimates that 56,300 individuals nationwide became newly infected with HIV in 2006 – a 40% increase from the previous annual estimate of 40,000 used for more than a decade.
Using the national HIV-incidence data as its basis, the CDC estimates 2,100 people were newly infected with HIV in Georgia in 2006. The state’s estimated HIV-incidence rate in 2006 was 27.8 cases per 100,000 population and is higher than the estimated national HIV-incidence rate of 22.8 cases per 100,000 population. This is consistent with previous data that has shown Georgia has a higher HIV/AIDS morbidity than the national average.
“This surveillance system used new technology to paint a clearer picture of HIV infections across the country,” said Dr. Sandra Elizabeth Ford, Acting Director of the Georgia Division of Public Health. “With this study, we have a better understanding of where HIV is spreading, which allows us to focus our prevention efforts on those who are most at risk. These estimates remind us all that HIV continues to pose a very serious health threat across the nation and in our own state.”
Among those diagnosed with HIV in Georgia in 2006, 79% were African American. Fifty-two percent of those diagnosed with HIV in 2006 were reported without risk information. Of those with known risk information, 68% were among men who have sex with men (MSM). A third of those diagnosed were between the ages of 20 and 29 years old, indicating the significant toll HIV is having on young adults in Georgia. Nationally, recent reports have shown an increase in HIV diagnoses among young, African-American MSM.
In 2007, the Division of Public Health (DPH) received more than $1.9 million from the CDC to increase testing and early diagnosis of HIV among African Americans. With the CDC’s awards, the agency was able to increase HIV testing and counseling primarily in clinical settings such as emergency rooms and federally qualified health centers.
The DPH recently launched the “HERstory” social marketing campaign specifically targeting HIV prevention, HIV counseling and testing and treatment services for African-American women in Georgia. In addition, DPH supports a number of evidence-based behavioral interventions throughout the state that target other high-risk populations including African-American and Caucasian MSM.
The agency has also worked closely with community partners and concerned citizens to develop a statewide, comprehensive plan for the prevention of HIV in Georgia in urban and rural areas. DPH is interested in developing a statewide strategy for addressing HIV prevention among African-American MSM in Georgia and has currently applied for dollars to support this effort.
The new, more precise method for estimating HIV incidence incorporates a direct measure of new infections and is made possible by a laboratory test that is able to distinguish recent infections (e.g., within the past five months) from long-term infections. Up until this time, diagnosed cases of HIV and AIDS have been a primary means of tracking the epidemic. However, a new HIV diagnosis does not necessarily mean a new HIV infection. Someone can be infected with HIV for many years before being diagnosed. Thus, the ability to measure recent infections and understand who is being infected now enables scientists to monitor the epidemic in more “real time” and more effectively focus prevention efforts and resource allocation.
For more information about HIV/AIDS in Georgia, please call 1-800-551-2728 or visit online.