Free HIV Testing in Mississippi

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Over 1.1 million individuals in the US are living with HIV. Every year, 56,000 people contract HIV infection. Some of the country’s highest HIV/AIDS infection and mortality rates are found in southern states, particularly Mississippi.

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HIV Testing in Mississippi

Mississippi's continuous failure to control HIV/AIDS infection rates is an issue of concern for the federal government. Poverty rates are higher in Mississippi, as it is the country's poorest state; hence, Mississippians don't usually have access to adequate medical care facilities.

As far as statistics are concerned, around 26% of African-Americans in Mississippi are uninsured compared to 14% of whites, while 37% of uninsured individuals are between 19 and 29.

Mississippi's lackluster approach towards addressing the issue has been a big hurdle in the federal government's efforts to control infection rates across the country.

In 2017, Mississippian lawmakers put an end to the free HIV/AIDS testing at all Mississippi State Department of Health clinics, at a time when Jackson was declared to have the fourth-highest HIV diagnosis rate in the USA. The state started charging $25 for HIV/AIDS testing to everyone except for people under 19-years of age and those who reached out directly to the state's disease investigation specialists for getting tested.

However, this policy has now been discontinued as it was deemed a barrier in the state's efforts to control the disease rate, specifically among low-income Mississippians. In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded a $2.5million grant to Mississippi state to focus on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

The grant aims to expand the access of Mississippians to HIV care, prevention, treatment, and medication and identifying those at higher risk for infection. The grant will fund PrEP access and HIV testing while people living with the disease will receive appropriate treatment, such as viral suppression medication.

There are six health centers in the state, located in Biloxi, Clarksdale, Canton, Laurel, Hattiesburg, and Mound Bayou, that will benefit from half of the federal government's funds. These centers' entire focus will be on prevention outreach and offering free testing and access to PrEP.

Why Testing Matters

Medical professionals claim a combination of factors, such as systematic poverty, lack of access to health care, housing instability, homophobia, lack of sex and health education, transphobia, and social stigmas, are responsible for increasing HIV/AIDS rates in Mississippi. However, the government has implemented measures to help people seek help and support.

Getting tested is the only way to diagnose the disease and start treatment at the right time. If left undiagnosed for an extended period, the disease could be fatal for the individual and leads to various chronic health conditions, including organ failure. The risk of transmission is always a cause of concern and makes it all the more significant to think about getting tested for HIV before it becomes impossible to control it.

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Mississippi HIV Statistics:

According to 2015 statistics, Mississippi’s population was 2,992,333, out of which 55% reside in rural areas. The state has the highest percentage of people living in poverty with 22.4% against the national percentage of 15.3%, therefore, Mississippi has high rate of uninsured individuals, with 39% having PLWHA and just 14% having Medicaid.

In 2015, Mississippi ranked 6th in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in a nationwide survey whereas Jackson had the fourth highest HIV and the highest AIDS diagnosis rates in any US metropolitan statistical area (MSA) comprising of 500,000 or more population. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in a 2017 study that Mississippi occupied the 9th position in nationwide increase in HIV infections whereas in 2016 the state was at number 8.

Distribution of HIV/AIDS

Surprisingly, the rate of HIV/AIDS infections in Mississippi is disproportionately high for MSM (men having sex with men), as 85% of men who reported to indulge in MSM were at a higher risk of contracting HIV. In 2017, the rate of new HIV cases in Mississippi was higher among black males aged between 20 and 24, whereas young adults aged between 20 and 29 represented 43% of newly diagnosed cases as a whole.

According to a 2018 study published in JMIR Public Health Surveillance, HIV infection rates per 100,000 population is dispersed across the Mississippi. The state recorded 127 to 1350 cases in the Jackson area for the whole population, and around 271 to 4054 HIV cases reported per 100,000 African-Americans. Delta residents and the greater Jackson area residents, according to the study, were at a higher risk for contracting HIV.

Age, Gender, Ethnic Disparities

The Mississippi State Department of Health STD/HIV Office reported that around 21.4% of people with HIV are unaware of the infection. Though African-Americans represent approx. 37% of the entire Mississippian populace has the largest rate of HIV infection, with 72.7% and 78.5% of the newly reported cases of HIV in 2010 also belonged to African-Americans. Deaths due to HIV are also steadily increasing, particularly among senior Mississippians.

In 2010, 31.9% of people died of HIV aged 40-49, while 37.6% aged 50 and above. The death rate due to HIV was higher among males with 73.2 percentage, whereas the death rate was higher in African-Americans, with 79% deaths and Public Health District V residents with a 35.5% rate.

African Americans have the highest percentage of living cases of HIV (72.7%), as well as the highest number of HIV cases ever reported in Mississippi (72.6%). In contrast, whites represent just 23.3% of living cases and 24.2% of HIV cases reported in Mississippi to date. Every year there have been at least 250 deaths due to HIV since 2001, but authorities claim that this doesn't portray a true picture of HIV related deaths due to reporting delays.

Around 35.2% of HIV infected Mississippians attribute it to MSM followed by heterosexual sex with 16.9% of all living cases, whereas 35.2% of all cases reported MSM as the leading cause behind the infection, and heterosexual sex was reported by 17.4% of all cases. Mississippi District V has not just the highest number of all-time reported cases (40.2%); it also ranks at the top in individuals living with HIV (38.5%). District IX was at number 2 in 2010, with 12.8% individuals living with HIV and 12.6% of HIV cases ever reported.

According to the year 2010 CDC report, in Mississippi state, the HIV/STD infection rate among Hispanics was 49.9 cases per 100,000 people. In contrast, the rate of reported cases among whites was 23.1 per 100,000 population.

SeniorList.com revealed in a recent study based on the CDC's latest statistics that Mississippi ranks 19 among the 50 states where seniors (citizens aged 55 or above) were at higher risk of HIV infection and subsequent complications, including death. There has been a 124.2% increase in HIV/AIDS cases among seniors. The increase is indeed eye-opening.

References

  • Bayram, S., 2020. Mississippi Receives Grant To Fight High Rates Of HIV/AIDS. [online] Jacksonfreepress.com. Available at: https://www.jacksonfreepress.c...
  • Mississippi State Department of Health, 2017. Crossroads Clinic Relocating To Five Points Clinic In Jackson Medical Mall - Mississippi State Department Of Health. [online] Msdh.ms.gov. Available at: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_...,18852,341,791.html
  • CDC.gov, 2020. HIV In The Southern United States. [online] Cdc.gov. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/po...
  • HHS.gov, 2020. HHS Awards $2.24 Billion In Grants To Help Americans Access HIV/AIDS Care, Support Services, And Medication. [online] HHS.gov. Available at: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news...
  • The Senior List. 2020. Stis & Older Americans: Where Does Your State Stand? - The Senior List. [online] Available at: https://www.theseniorlist.com/...
  • Stopka, T., Brinkley-Rubinstein, L., Johnson, K., Chan, P., Hutcheson, M., Crosby, R., Burke, D., Mena, L. and Nunn, A., 2018. HIV Clustering in Mississippi: Spatial Epidemiological Study to Inform Implementation Science in the Deep South. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 4(2), p.e35.
  • Mississippi State Department of Health, STD/HIV Office, 2011. State Of Mississippi 2010 STD/HIV Epidemiologic Profile. [online] Msdh.ms.gov. Available at: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_...
  • Mississippi State Department of Health. 2020. STD/HIV - Mississippi State Department Of Health. [online] Msdh.ms.gov. Available at: https://msdh.ms.gov/msdhsite/_...,0,150.html
  • Leandro, M., 2018. The HIV/AIDS Epidemic In Mississippi: What We Know, Challenges Ahead. [online] chcams.org. Available at: https://chcams.org/wp-content/...
Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Aug 11, 2021

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