PRESS RELEASE: March 4, 2015
CONTACT: Lee Storrow
HIV and AIDS have a serious and unequal impact on certain communities in North Carolina, according to a report released today by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Approximately 36,300 people were living with HIV in the state in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation for new HIV diagnoses.
Communities of color and gay and bisexual communities are hardest hit. More than 65 percent of North Carolinians living with HIV are African American. Gay and bisexual men make up roughly 60 percent of newly diagnosed cases.
Young men between the ages of 13 and 24 made up one in five people diagnosed with HIV in 2013. Most of these are young men of color.
“Like many public health issues, HIV tends to affect communities without access to comprehensive healthcare, economic security, housing, and other basic human needs,” says Lee Storrow, executive director at the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.
“Segregated social networks and pervasive stigma exacerbate the issue,” Storrow says. “The good news is, we know what North Carolina needs to do to address this epidemic.”
The state’s report highlights the success of North Carolina’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which serves roughly twenty percent of people living with HIV in the state.
Three-fourths of the clients enrolled in the program qualify as virally suppressed, meaning they are at least 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to a partner and the levels of the virus in their blood are so low as to be undetectable.
The rate of new diagnosis is also holding relatively steady from past years.
With treatment, people diagnosed with HIV can expect to live long and active lives.
Yet more than one quarter of individuals living with HIV in North Carolina did not see a doctor in the last year. Only 36 percent of the overall population living with HIV in the state is virally suppressed.
“Everyone living with HIV or any other chronic illness should be able to see a doctor when they need to. Our elected leaders must expand Medicaid. That one simple step will extend health insurance to thousands of people living with and at high risk for HIV,” Storrow said.
“Most importantly, this new report is a call to all of us to work for the interests of the communities most affected by this epidemic, to raise HIV as a critical issue in our state, and to stand up for the dignity and rights of North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS.”
The full report is available online at http://bit.ly/1Cscs11.
The North Carolina AIDS Action Network improves the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and affected communities through outreach and public education, policy advocacy, and community-building to increase visibility and mutual support of people living with HIV/AIDS throughout our state. Read more at www.ncaan.org.