HIV/AIDS Advocates in Georgia Discuss Need for Improved Outreach Efforts, Particularly Those for Blacks, Rural Residents, Young People
HIV/AIDS advocates in Georgia have become concerned that "[o]ld messages geared to urban, white, gay men simply don't resonate with many" black, rural, women and young people, who now are the "new face" of HIV/AIDS in the state, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. According to the Journal-Constitution, it is becoming more difficult to reach such high-risk groups with prevention, testing and treatment services.
Blacks make up about 30% of the state's population and 71% of those who were living with HIV/AIDS in 2006, according to state data. Seventy-nine percent of those diagnosed with HIV in 2006 were black, and advocates say they see a high number of black women with HIV/AIDS in the metro Atlanta area.
Clarence Reynolds, spokesperson for AID Atlanta, said that the inability to target prevention messages to blacks, young people and those in rural areas "is really a threat to everyone's well-being."
Some advocates say that Georgia has done little to coordinate prevention efforts around the state, the Journal-Constitution reports. Lola Thomas, executive director of the AIDS Alliance of Northwest Georgia, said that HIV/AIDS "is not even on the radar" at some rural county and municipal governments, adding, "Most government people here see [HIV/AIDS] as a city problem."
Dazon Dixon Diallo, executive director of SisterLove, a not-for-profit support group for women, said, "Ignoring women, young people of color, people in rural areas -- we have done them a disservice."
The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the Atlanta Ebenezer Baptist Church, said an "unholy trinity" of silence, shame and stigma prevents many blacks from obtaining HIV tests. Stigma also affects outreach efforts in rural and black communities and has prevented HIV/AIDS from being discussed in schools and churches, the Journal-Constitution reports.
State officials said they have increased HIV testing efforts and have worked with community leaders on HIV prevention plans. Raphael Holloway, the new HIV unit director in the state, said that his agency needs to improve its outreach efforts but added that budget cuts may impede any increases to current services (Schneider, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/17).