World AIDS Day calls for state reform, vaccine research

Startling statistics

The CDC reports HIV infection rates among gay men are more than 44 times higher than among heterosexual men.

• In 2008, there were nearly 3,000 new HIV infections in Georgia.

• In 2007, Georgia ranked eighth in the nation for cumulative AIDS cases. A year later, the state  jumped to sixth place for cumulative AIDS cases with 38,300 (cases reported since data started being tracked in the early 1980s).

• 55-61 percent of all new HIV or AIDS cases reported in Georgia are among men who have sex with men.

• African-American gay and bisexual men account for 63 percent of HIV and AIDS cases in Georgia while African Americans comprise only 28 percent of the state’s population.

ADAP is funded by state and federal funds and “provides access to over 60 life-saving HIV-related medications for low and moderate-income individuals who lack private insurance and who do not qualify for Medicaid,” according Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality.

Just one month after the ADAP waiting list was implemented in Georgia, the state became second in the nation for those on the waiting list.

The state had an ADAP waiting list from 1997-2002 and at its peak, 1,600 low-income people were waiting to see if they could get the life-saving drugs they needed.

“That was when the state had no funding,” Graham, an Atlanta AIDS activist for some 20 years, has said. “Over that time we were all working with many organizations to get that funding up to eliminate the waiting list.”

Gay and bisexual men and transgender individuals are at highest risk for contracting HIV in Georgia, Graham added.

The waiting list was eventually eliminated when needed funding came through and Graham said he had hoped Georgia would never be in the same situation.

“It shocks me we do have a list again and how fast the numbers have grown and there is not the same sense of urgency,” Graham said. “I really had hoped to not see another waiting list.”

Recently, Florida eliminated 350 people from its ADAP waiting list and is threatening to drop more because of a budget downfall. Florida continues to rank No. 1 in people on an ADAP waiting list. As of mid-November, Florida had more than 2,000 people on its ADAP waiting list.

Supporting the press conference and rally and the Save Georgia ADAP Campaign include: AID Atlanta, AID Gwinnett, AIDS Athens, Community Advance Practice Nurses, Georgia Equality, Georgia HIV Advocacy Network, Grady Infectious Disease Program, SisterLove, Someone Cares and Metro Atlanta HIV Health Services Planning Council.

The Georgia HIV Advocacy Network was formed in 2009 and is a “statewide network of service providers and citizen advocates working for HIV policy initiatives on both a state and county level through policy analysis, advocacy training and coordinated community activities.”

The press conference will be from 1-2 p.m. at the Georgia State Capitol inside the north wing of the building.

Testing, outreach and education

Several AIDS service organizations are also teaming up to commemorate World AIDS Day at Atlanta City Hall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The global theme this year is “Universal Access and Human Rights.”“This day reminds us that we all should take a stand and become a part of the solution, by volunteering time and talents for the betterment of persons infected and affect by HIV/AIDS, raising funds or advocating for universal access to medicines and services for the underserved,” said Rudolph H. Carn, CEO and founder of NAESM, in a statement.

“It is very important today that we fight bias and prejudices especially in minority communities,” he said.

The National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities Inc. will join with the Atlanta Harm Reduction Center, AID Atlanta, the Hope Clinic of Emory Vaccine Center, Fulton County Department of Health & Wellness and the Georgia Department of Community Health to provide education as well as free HIV testing in the atrium of Atlanta City Hall.

This year, the state’s HIV Division of Public Health, part of the Georgia Department of Community Health, launched a 12-month plan called “Taking Control,” designed to address the needs of gay and bisexual men in a language and way that resonates with them.

The program has four main goals: increase access to HIV prevention programs for gay and bisexual men; increase linkage to care and other supportive services to gay men living with HIV; increase individual awareness of the urgency of HIV/AIDS through social marketing; and increase partnerships for community mobilization with non-profits, faith-based organizations and for-profit businesses.

It is the first-known state-funded program to directly reach out to gay and bisexual men in an attempt to lower the rates of HIV infections in the state.

Also on Dec. 1, the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display at Emory University, on McDonough Field, located in the center of campus.

“The display will be the largest collegiate display in the country on World AIDS Day and will address the growing epidemic of HIV infection in the 18-25 age range,” said Daniel Sperling, spokesperson for Emory’s World AIDS Day “Quilt on the Quad” display. “We plan on having upwards of 5,000 individuals view the display throughout the course of the day.”

Other local World AIDS Day events include two free screenings of the film “Sex in the Epidemic,” sponsored by AID Atlanta, and an Interfaith Prayer Breakfast. The breakfast is hosted by AIDS Alliance for Faith & Health, in partnership with Ahavath Achim Synagogue, Faith Alliance for Metropolitan Atlanta and WSB-TV.

Guests at the prayer breakfast include keynote speaker Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, who currently serves as the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCCUSA), and Dr. Musa Dube, eminent scholar on HIV/AIDS and senior lecturer to associate professor at the University of Botswana.

Also participating is Monica Pearson, anchor from WSB-TV, and a musical presentation from HARMONY: Atlanta’s International Chorus.

Atlanta events for World AIDS Day

‘Sex in the Epidemic’ film screening
Monday, Nov. 29, 6 p.m.
The Evolution Center
583 #1 Juniper St., Atlanta, GA 30308
Call 404-870-7763 for details

AIDS Alliance for Faith & Health
Interfaith Prayer Breakfast
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 8 a.m.
Ahavath Achim
600 Peachtree Battle Ave. NW, Atlanta, GA 30327

World AIDS Day HIV testing, education
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Atlanta City Hall, 55 Trinity Avenue
Atlanta, GA 30303

Emory University Quilt on the Quad
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Emory’s McDonough Field
600 Asbury Circle, Atlanta GA 30322
Rain Location:
Emory University Dobbs University Center
600 Asbury Circle, Atlanta GA 30322

World AIDS Day press conference, rally
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1-2 p.m.
Georgia State Capitol
North wing of the building

‘Sex in the Epidemic’ film screening
Wednesday, Dec. 1, 8 p.m.
Georgia Institute of Technology
Clary Theater of the Bill Moore Student Success Center
Call 404-870-7763 for details


Top photo: On World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, Atlanta’s Emory University will host the largest display of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on any college campus in the country. (by Dyana Bagby)