Cuts won’t help HIV problem in Mississippi

Published 8:53 pm Thursday, June 8, 2017

Two recent stories paint a grim picture of the HIV and AIDS problem in Mississippi.

Earlier this week the New York Times published a story about HIV cases in Jackson, which has the nation’s highest rate of gay and bisexual men living with HIV. 

“In Jackson, a small city of just over 170,000, half a dozen black gay or bisexual men receive the shock of a diagnosis every month, and more than 3,600 people, the majority of them black men, live with the virus,” the newspaper reported.

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While AIDS was being fought globally, it seems a small pocket of people right here in Mississippi was being overlooked.

The second story related to AIDS this week was about state Department of Health’s decision to no longer offer free HIV testing.

The Clarion-Ledger reports starting July 1 the department will charge a $25 fee for the testing. It’s a result of legislative budgets cuts and comes while Mississippi suffers from sharp rises in STDs.

“In 2015, the latest numbers available, more than 500 people were diagnosed with HIV in Mississippi,” the newspaper reported.

Sure, $25 is not a great sum of money, but it’s more than some people have to spend on HIV testing. If more people live with the virus unknowingly, then they will potentially infect more people.

It doesn’t seem like the best strategy for reducing the number of HIV and AIDS cases in the state.

Budget cuts to the Department of Health continue to have real impacts on Mississippians, and it tends to be the poor who are affected the most.

HIV is no longer a death sentence thanks to advances in medication, but it can still mean death for those who are infected and don’t know it.