AIDS rates in California have soared in the last year following Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to legalize the intentional spread of the HIV virus.
Last year, Governor Brown passed a controversial law that made it legal for HIV infected people to knowingly infect others. He also gave blood banks the green-light to accept HIV infected blood from donors.
Unsurprisingly, this has been a complete disaster for the state of California.
Whilst HIV and AIDS cases continue to decline nationally, new figures show that California is currently in the grip of a new epidemic.
Patch.com reports: More than half of new HIV cases in 2016 were in Southern states, where 38 percent of U.S. residents live, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. In California, there were 15.2 new cases per 100,000 population in 2016, according to the report.
Though new cases were disproportionately concentrated in the South, HIV infections nationwide dropped 18 percent from 2008 to 2014, the CDC said in an earlier report. The biggest decline — 56 percent, to 1,700 cases in 2014 — was among IV drug users, but the opioid crisis could offset those gains, said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the agency’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.
“The opioid epidemic in our country is jeopardizing the dramatic progress we’ve made in reducing HIV among people who inject drugs,” Mermin said in a statement. “We need to expand the reach of comprehensive syringe services programs, which reduce the risk of HIV infection without increasing drug use, and can link people to vital services to help them stop using drugs.”
Some states saw substantial drops in HIV infection rates during the six-year period, according to the earlier report. New HIV infection rates dropped by 10 percent each year in Washington, D.C., 8 percent in Maryland, 7 percent in Pennsylvania, 6 percent in Georgia, 5 percent in New York and North Carolina, 4 percent in Illinois and 2 percent in Texas.
The new CDC report on HIV rates, based on 2014 and 2015 data, takes a deeper look at the geographic locations and racial and ethnic backgrounds of those most at risk. It showed that 37,600 people nationally were diagnosed with HIV in 2014, more than half of them in the South. Also that year, 53 percent of the 6,000 people who died from HIV lived in the South.
SubscribeThe report marks some other differences, too. Nationally, the majority of people with new HIV diagnoses live in urban areas, where medical treatment is readily available. But in the South and Midwest, 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively, live in suburban or isolated rural areas.
In the South in particular, the larger and more geographically dispersed population of people living with HIV creates special challenges for prevention and treatment, the CDC said.
Understanding the places and populations most affected by HIV and AIDS allows the federal government to more effectively target its resources where they’re needed the most, while still supporting basic HIV education and prevention for everyone across the country, according to the agency.
The need is especially acute in the South, where people are less likely than in other areas of the country to know they’re infected. Nationally, 85 percent of people living with HIV knew they had tested positive for the virus, but 10 of 17 Southern states fell below that mark.
Early treatment is critical. Nationally, 75 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV got the care they needed within a month, but that didn’t happen in half of Southern states. As a result the CDC said, people are three times more likely to die in some Southern states as in others.
Minorities, especially African-Americans, were most at risk of HIV infections, according to the report. That corresponds to general population trends that show more than half of the nation’s black population lives in Southern states — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
Also from the report:
- In all geographic areas but the West, African-Americans were more likely to contract HIV than other races. They made up 54 percent of new diagnoses in the South, 50 percent of new diagnoses in the Midwest, 39 percent of new diagnoses in the Northeast, and 19 percent in the West.
- In the West, 39 percent of people newly diagnosed with HIV were Hispanics/Latinos. That compares with 31 percent in the Northeast, 20 percent in the South and 12 percent in the Midwest.
- In the Midwest, 34 percent of those with new HIV diagnoses were white, compared with 32 percent in the West, and 23 percent in both the Northeast and the South.
- In the West, 6 percent of those with new HIV diagnoses were Asian, compared with 3 percent in the Northeast, 2 percent in Midwest and 1 percent in the South.
- The disparities point to a need for targeted programs at both state and local levels to accelerate prevention strategies, said Dr. Eugene McCray, director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.
“That means more testing to diagnose infections, increasing the proportion of people with HIV who are taking HIV treatment effectively and maximizing the impact of all available prevention tools,” McCray said in a statement.