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40 Years of Progress Fighting the HIV Epidemic 

JACKSON, Miss. On June 5th, the United States will recognize the 40th anniversary of the first reported cases of HIV in the country, marking four decades of understanding the disease and transforming detection, prevention and treatment.

According to the CDC, in 2018, more than 15,800 Americans, including 228 Mississippians, still died from HIV. Fortunately, through advancements in medical technology and treatment options, as well as a focus on prevention, HIV is no longer a death sentence and can now be viewed as a manageable chronic disease. There are currently 10,205 Mississippians living with HIV, according to data from the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) Office of STD/HIV.

“The earlier it’s detected, the earlier successful treatment is possible, which can lead to a long and productive life,” said MSDH State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs. “We also have far better preventive tools than we had in years past. We know how this disease is spread and how to control it now – there is no mystery and fear of the unknown like there was 40 years ago.”

To help with early detection of HIV, confidential, private HIV testing is available at all MSDH county health department clinics. The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV as part of routine health care and that people at high risk be tested more often. To find a testing location near you, text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948) or visit www.HealthyMS.com/locations.

In Mississippi, the burden of HIV is disproportionately higher for men who have sex with men. Young adults aged 20-29 represented the leading age group (40 percent) of newly diagnosed cases in 2018. African Americans account for 73 percent of the newly diagnosed cases with African American men specifically accounting for 58 percent of those cases. Also at higher risk are those with multiple sex partners and injection drug users.

The MSDH also offers virtual HIV consultation services through Crossroads Clinic in the Jackson Medical Mall. Through the virtual clinic, patients can start and receive treatment for STDs at no cost, and learn what preventive approaches work best for them.

In 2019, there were 480 new HIV infections reported in Mississippi, but 66 percent of those were linked to treatment within 30 days.

“With the introduction of PrEP several years ago, we took preventing the spread of HIV to an entirely new level,” said Dr. Dobbs. “When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces the risk of getting infected with HIV from sex by 99 percent. It is also incredibly effective at preventing HIV infection from injection drug use.”

The Crossroads Virtual Clinic also focuses on TelePrEP and PEP programs throughout the state. Patients can set up a virtual consultation online with a medical provider and speak with a PrEP Navigator to determine whether a preventive plan such as PrEP or PEP is right for them. To schedule a virtual clinic appointment, call 601-432-3066.

For more information about HIV, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/std.