Many residents in Atlanta don’t have access to routine HIV testing at their healthcare facilities, according to WABE, Atlanta’s NPR station. In 2013, Grady Hospital initiated a testing program so that anyone coming to the hospital, regardless of the nature of their visit, could undergo testing for the virus. Grady’s FOCUS HIV testing program is the only emergency department in the city that offers an HIV test to all of their patients, regardless of why they come into the hospital.
WABE reported that since Grady’s testing initiative, “By the time patients are diagnosed in Atlanta, almost one-third have advanced to clinical AIDS.” The hospital has diagnosed an average of two to three patients with HIV every single day since 2013.
Dr. Abigail Hankin-Wei, who runs the department, said to WABE, “When we diagnose patients with HIV, the first time we are telling them they’ve been infected with HIV, we know that among our patients at Grady, nearly half of them have AIDS the day we diagnose them.”
According to the Center of Disease and Control, Atlanta is the fifth city in the United States with the most number of new HIV diagnosis. Not far behind was Augusta, the state’s second largest city, ranking as the 11th U.S. city with the highest number of new diagnosis.
HIV/AIDS seems to be a problem transcending beyond the borders of Georgia’s major cities and into the rest of the state, especially among black people. The rate of black men with an HIV infection diagnosis is 5.2 times that of white men, as reported by AIDSVu. Black women living with an HIV infection diagnosis is 12.2 times that of white women.
It takes about eight to 10 years for HIV to progress to clinical AIDS. In Georgia, AIDSVu finds that about one third of the population who are diagnosed as positive are in the late diagnosis category.
In an effort to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, doctors are trying to diagnose individuals and treat them. Wendy Armstrong, the director of the Ponce de Leon Center, an AIDS care facility in Atlanta, tells WABE, “Effective treatment can make the risk of HIV transmission almost non-existent.” But to be diagnosed and treated, naturally people have to undergo testing and be aware of their status. There is a lack of status awareness throughout the country, as the CDC reports that about 14% of people with HIV or AIDS are completely unaware that they’re infected.