Magazine article The Nation's Health

Georgia Ramps Up HIV Prevention Efforts among Gay, Bisexual Men

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Georgia Ramps Up HIV Prevention Efforts among Gay, Bisexual Men

Article excerpt

IN AUGUSTA, Ga., a homegrown HIV-prevention movement is slowly beginning to take root. The process will take time and organizers say they may face barriers, but thanks to a new statewide HIV campaign developed by and for gay and bisexual men in Georgia, Augusta is one of many communities receiving a boost in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Launched in September, the new Taking Control HIV awareness and prevention campaign is aimed at curbing the disease among gay men, who have an HIV infection rate more than 44 times higher than heterosexual men, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health, which is heading the Taking Control effort. To create the campaign, health workers invited men from across the state who identify themselves as gay or bisexual to serve as an advisory group, help develop the campaign's focus and messaging, and bring a "true community perspective" to the effort, said Leisha McKinley-Beach, MS, manager of the department's HIV Prevention Program.

"When you look at the HIV case data in Georgia, men who have sex with men are well over half--60 percent plus," McKinley-Beach told The Nation's Health. "With these startling statistics, there needed to be a statewide initiative, and the (state health) department needed to be the leader to show that we're definitely aware of the alarming case numbers in that population."

According to the Georgia health department, 55 percent to 61 percent of all new HIV or AIDS cases in Georgia are among men who have sex with men, with black gay and bisexual men accounting for 63 percent of HIV and AIDS cases among that population. While the Atlanta metro region is home to more than 60 percent of the state's HIV cases, the health districts of Savannah, Macon, Augusta and Columbus make up almost 20 percent of HIV cases.

To counter Georgia's share of the epidemic, Taking Control set four goals to be met over 12 months: increase access to HIV prevention outreach; increase linkages to care and treatment, especially for those living with HIV; increase individual HIV awareness through social marketing; and increase partnerships with outside organizations to further community mobilization around HIV/AIDS. …

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