Georgia Public Health Division Forms Immigrant, Refugee Advisory Panel on HIV
The Georgia Department of Human Resources Division of Public Health has established a community advisory panel to "help bridge the cultural gaps" that prevent foreign-born residents from seeking HIV/AIDS treatment in the state, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The council -- the HIV/AIDS Immigrant/Refugee Advisory Board of Georgia -- stems from a meeting of more than 24 community and religious leaders during which participants discussed ways to improve HIV/AIDS education and treatment programs for immigrants and refugees. The new board, which is based on a Minnesota program, will serve as a liaison between immigrant and refugee communities and the state Division of Public Health. The Minnesota program was established after health officials determined that HIV infections among African immigrants and refugees contributed to a 6% increase in new infections in the state in 2002, according to the Journal-Constitution. Dr. Luke Shouse, a medical epidemiologist with the state public health division, said that many immigrants and refugees do not know their HIV status and are not aware of available medical care. In addition, undocumented immigrants and refugees are often afraid to seek medical care out of fear of deportation. Cultural issues and HIV-related stigma also contribute to their reluctance to seek medical care, the Journal-Constitution reports. Currently, there are no estimates of HIV/AIDS prevalence among Georgia's immigrant and refugee populations. Shouse said that state health officials have tried to estimate prevalence rates by using data on the HIV/AIDS rates in immigrants' and refugees' countries of origin. However, state and local protocols determine whether country-of-origin information is requested on AIDS reporting forms and in many cases, people from Africa or the Caribbean are classified as "African-American" or "black, non-Hispanic," according to the Journal-Constitution (Poole, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.