Moultrie Observer

Local News

October 10, 2012

HIV cases continue to rise

MOULTRIE — As of July, the Rural Clinic in Albany has treated 450 HIV-positive patients. Ninety-three of them are from Colquitt County.

One of the most disturbing statistics is that 39 percent of the new patients are in an age group of 13 to 29, said Bonnie Long, program coordinator for the clinic that is a part of Albany Area Primary Healthcare. The agency treats most of the HIV cases in a 14-county area of southwest Georgia.

“It all goes back to education,” Long said.

Another figure that stands out is that 89 percent of the area HIV patients are black, according to Clifton Bush of the Rural Clinic. That number is in proportion with Georgia statewide figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.

“Our numbers are very close to that,” Long said.

No cases of HIV in the migrant worker community in the Moultrie area have been reported although that is not the case statewide.

The CDC’s most recent figures place Georgia seventh in the nation in the number of cases of AIDS, which is caused by the HIV virus.

Area physicians are required to report HIV cases to the state but there are a lot of people with HIV who have not been tested, said Long.

The Rural Clinic treats patients who are referred by a doctor, a hospital or other sources and those patients have confirmation tests before coming to the clinic. Additional laboratory work is done at the clinic and many of the new patients are started on medication to help prevent them from getting AIDS.

Long said there are new medications available.

The Rural Clinic treated 84 HIV/AIDS patients in 2008 in Colquitt County, an increase from the 53 cases reported in 2002.

Statewide numbers from the CDC show that Georgia had 1,605 cases of AIDS in 2006 and 31,965 since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

Most cases were transmitted by male-to-male sexual contact, according CDC figures. That was followed by injection drug use and high-risk heterosexual contact. Blood transfusions also contribute to those numbers.

“There are a lot of people who have not been tested. Many people have HIV and don’t know it.” Long said.

The Rural Clinic is trying to make testing as available as possible. Long said the agency offers screening sites at health fairs and any location that can provide an area that will keep things confidential.

She added that the clilnic is willing to work with any civic group or other organization that wants to offer free screening. The Rural Clinic recently hired a community navigator who will be involved in educational programs and free screening sites.

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