Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves on World AIDS Day last December. (File photo)

Fulton County HIV/AIDS task force unveils strategy to ‘end’ AIDS

There are alarming rates of new HIV/AIDS infections in Fulton County, and in an ongoing effort to combat the problem, the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS on Monday rolled out Phase II of their Strategy to End AIDS.

Fulton County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Eaves and Commissioner Joan Garner created the Task Force in December 2014. The Task Force, which is comprised of a number of health professionals, community advocates and leaders in treatment and support services, unveiled Phase I of their preliminary objectives on World AIDS Day on December 1, 2015.

Phase II was unveiled Monday morning at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, where Chairman Eaves and Commissioner Garner were joined by Congressman John Lewis, Fulton County Health Director Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, Fulton County HIV Task Force Co-Chairs Dr. Wendy Armstrong & Daniel Driffin, and Dr. Melanie Thompson, the Task Force’s “Strategy to End AIDS” Executive Editor.

Fulton County’s rate of new HIV diagnoses consistently remains at over 600 per year, more than double that of San Francisco’s. Gay and bisexual men make up over two-thirds of those new diagnoses, four out of five of them were black and more than half were less than 30 years old according to the report.

“So much is wrong with this picture,” Monday’s report read. “Why is our epidemic so entrenched, when others move toward gaining control? Why is the epicenter of the civil rights movement now an epicenter of HIV/AIDS? How have we tolerated such stark disparities for all these years without taking to the streets in favor of LGBTQ and racial equality? Do we really believe that #BlackLivesMatter, or that #GayLivesMatter or that #TransLivesMatter or that #WomensLivesMatter or that #HIVLivesMatter? And if so, what can we actually do to make a difference?”

The Task Force announced new objectives to fight the problem, which they plan to hit by 2020. They included:

  • Decreasing the number of new infections by 25 percent
  • Reducing the disparities by at least 15 percent in young gay and bisexual men, gay and bisexual men regardless of race/ethnicity, black females and transgender women
  • Increase the percentage of people living with HIV who know their serostatus awareness to 90 percent
  • Increase the portion of newly diagnosed persons linked to care (defined as attending a medical provider within three days of diagnosis) to 85 percent

The Task Force also listed 10 priorities that will be the guiding principles of the strategy. Those and more can be viewed in the full report below: