Atlanta’s HIV rates similar to third world African countries

Scientists and researchers share their studies on HIV/AIDS in the Metro Atlanta area. Photo provided by Pixabay
Scientists and researchers share their studies on HIV/AIDS in the Metro Atlanta area. Photo provided by Pixabay
Scientists and researchers share their studies on HIV/AIDS in the Metro Atlanta area.
Photo provided by Pixabay

An “epicenter” of the HIV epidemic, Atlanta has scientists drawing medical parallels between certain Georgia neighborhoods and developing African countries.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University’s Center for AIDS Research, told WSB-TV that “Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban,” when referring to the number of people living with HIV.  And according to the news channel, the high occurrence of the virus in Atlanta comes from the lack of health care accessibility and overall mismanagement in Fulton County.

Del Rio said the disease now affects nearly every population, as opposed to studies in the 1980s showing that it mainly affected drug users and men who engaged in sexual relations with other men (MSM). Of these populations, African-Americans who have limited access to health care are more likely to be impacted by the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that African-Americans account for 54 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2014, and attributed socioeconomic and cultural factors, such as income inequality and discrimination, as the reasons behind those high percentages.

A 2015 internal audit of Fulton County’s HIV Prevention Program cited “insufficient oversight, communication and planning” by the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness (FCDHW) that hindered the program’s progression. After the county received, and later squandered, millions of CDC grant dollars meant for HIV programs, the county had to give back roughly $9 million to the CDC, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A study released in February 2016 by the CDC indicates that while the likelihood of contracting the disease in the U.S. is 1 in 99, the likelihood in the state of Georgia jumps to 1 in 51. Additionally, the report notes that, “Gay and bisexual men continue to be most affected by the HIV epidemic in the U.S. At current rates, 1 in 6 men who have sex with men (MSM) will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, including 1 in 2 black MSM, 1 in 4 Latino MSM, and 1 in 11 white MSM.”

The CDC’s 2015 State Health Profile ranks Georgia 5th in the nation for the number of HIV diagnoses.
Danny Sprouse, associate director for the Prevention Department at The MISTER Center, an organization that offers free HIV testing and counseling services, said that he believes his clinic has been witnessing about the same number of new HIV cases for the last four or five years.

Dr. Richard Rothenberg, Georgia State professor specializing in infectious diseases, epidemiology, STDs and HIV also pointed out some other variances.

Photo Submitted by Richard Rothenberg
Photo Submitted by Richard Rothenberg

He said there have been numerous studies on HIV since 1995 and that only certain areas of Atlanta resemble certain African countries. An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. and 1.4 million people in Zimbabwe are living with HIV, according to AVERT.

AIDSVu, a project between the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and Gilead Sciences, Inc., mapped out the HIV and AIDS populations of  Atlanta, with the highest populations of people living with the disease appearing in downtown Atlanta, Decatur, and other south west neighborhoods.

Rothenberg said that people who are ostracized for their sexual orientation, specifically African-Americans, tend to have higher transmission rates.

Both Sprouse and Rothenberg talked about the importance of getting tested, preventing transmission, and executing safe sex practices, including the usage of condoms and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP) as the most effective prevention methods.

“Condoms are your best source of protection,” Sprouse said.


  1. Condoms might be the best source of protection against HIV and other STDs, but human nature longs for the skin action; hence the rise of STDS. Even common sense is defeated when the skin-for-skin desire kicks in… It is what it is…

    • no, ACTUALLY the Best protection Against HIV & other STD transmission IS abstinence. If you don’t do it, if you don’t cheat, if you don’t have sex at all – then you will not have to worry.

  2. I’m very surprised to see that the people in Atlanta hasn’t taking this epicdemic more seriously. I don’t think they realize that they are being ignored and discriminated against by there own government, because they are African Americans. If this was a situation that was affecting a different race of people that had a greater impact on a society, then more light and resources would have been put in place. I look at this as another form of long term genicide and if this problem is never properly addressed it will eventually kill off generations of African American people as well as others without anything being done. With these type of percentages of people being affected it should have been declared a state of emergency and mandatory testing should have been put in place at the government level to stop the disease and make everyone aware of the disease strong presence. When you look through history you will see that when certain problems are affecting African Americans the government will take there time,or ignore the problem altogether.

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