What State Has the Highest HIV Rate?
If you guessed Mississippi, you are correct. Its not a great honor, you don’t hand out foam fingers or awards given for this information.
The state has the highest new infection rate and greatest percentage of people living with HIV in the country, and by many measures, the least interest in helping them. but a Mississippian with HIV/AIDS is almost twice as likely to die than the average American with the virus; HIV-positive African-Americans in Mississippi are ten times as likely to die from it than their white neighbors. African-Americans are only 37.5% of the population, but represent 78% of new HIV infections. Meanwhile, an abstinence-education statute forbids even programs offering information about condoms to demonstrate how to use them, but does include a requirement to mention the anti-sodomy laws still on the books.
Combine racism and political indifference to poverty with homophobia — there’s been a rapid rise in infections among young men having sex with men in the state — and you’ve got a public health disaster that state politicians mostly ignore. There’s very little to prevent employers and housing providers from discriminating against people with HIV, especially because the state doesn’t have any anti-discrimination laws and Mississippi also ranks 49th in funding civil legal services for the poor, according to the state’s Access to Justice Commission. Human Rights Watch also indicted the state for “punitive, stigmatizing, and discriminatory policies that undermine efforts to reach the population’s most vulnerable to HIV … leaving people with HIV/AIDS without treatment at rates comparable to those in Botswana, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.”
The good news is that advocates believe they have an ally in the state’s new STD/HIV director, Nicholas Mosca. They are launching a new medical-legal partnership program, as well as an office in the hard-hit Delta region.
We can only hope to see changes that’ll get that State to correct its ways someday.
UPDATE: Please read the update about this story.