"Downtown Atlanta is as bad as Zimbabwe or Harare or Durban," Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director of Emory University's Center for AIDS Research, told the news outlet.
Per a 2017 report by the CDC, Southern states constitute 52 percent (19,968) of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. The Center also found that in 2015, the South accounted for approximately 46 percent of all individuals living with HIV.
While the disease impacts most demographics of the American population today, Dr. Del Rico specified that HIV primarily affects Black Americans with inadequate access to health care. In the Peach State, the likelihood of contracting the diagnosis jumps from one person to 51 people.
"We should not be having an epidemic of that proportion in a country like ours," Dr. Del Rio said.
Christian Dacus, a youth HIV policy advisor with Georgia Equality, spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and attributed the growing number of patient diagnoses to a lack of acceptance of homosexuality from religious-based families, causing gay residents of Atlanta to live their lives in secret.
"When you're hiding something, you're less prone to go out and be more careful, if you will," Dacus said.
However, he also suggested that in addition to wearing condoms, taking daily PrEP pills could aid in the prevention of HIV/AIDS. Nevertheless, protecting yourself should still be the first option.
"It may prevent you from contracting HIV, but there are a slew of other STIs you don't want, so I think condom usage is still something to be enforced," Dacus concluded.
The AJC encourages sexually active individuals to take an HIV test every month and yearly, at the very least.
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