A new HIV prevention program in Georgia aims to reduce the high rate of infection among gay and bisexual men — the only group in which infection rates are rising — and make inroads against an AIDS problem that is among the nation’s worst.
In 2008, only five states had accumulated more AIDS cases than Georgia since the epidemic began in the 1980s, according to the state’s health department.
The initiative, called Taking Control, is designed to foster a “statewide mobilization” focused on the high-risk, priority population, said Leisha McKinley-Beach, HIV unit manager with the Georgia Division of Public Health.
One in five gay men nationwide are HIV positive, and nearly half of them are unaware of it, according to a study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this month.
In Atlanta, one of the metropolitan statistical areas in which the study was conducted, just 6 percent of gay or bisexual men were HIV positive, but a full 55 percent of them were unaware of it. The CDC study tested more than 8,000 self-identifying gay and bisexual men in 21 American cities in 2008.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic still is heavily concentrated in the gay population, with minorities disproportionately affected, statistics show.
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Over the course of the next year, Taking Control aims to increase access to HIV prevention services for gay and bisexual men; link those already infected to treatment, prevention and other support services; increase awareness using social marketing; and forge partnerships to mobilize the community on the issue, McKinley-Beach said.
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