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The Fight Against HIV: An Evolution of Knowledge

September 3, 2013

Originally published July 11, 2011

The mission of the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) HIV Unit is to reduce HIV transmission and provide excellence in Georgia’s HIV/AIDS services through innovation and community partnership. The HIV Unit is dedicated to providing education, information, and health care services that promote and protect the health of all Georgians.

Since the start of the AIDS epidemic 30 years ago, the devastation of HIV has been tremendous in Georgia. AIDS has taken a destructive toll on our communities and claimed the lives of so many of our close friends and loved ones. In Georgia, 2,926 new HIV infections were reported in 2008. In 2007, Georgia ranked eighth among the 50 states for the cumulative total number of AIDS cases since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. By the end of 2008, Georgia’s ranking jumped to sixth place. 

The HIV Unit has launched several campaigns to bring heightened awareness to the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in Georgia, and most recently partnered with the Georgia Greater than AIDS campaign during this year’s National HIV Testing Day to administer testing in Atlanta communities and raise awareness of the importance of getting tested.

“Increasing testing means we can get more people on treatment. When someone learns their HIV status and starts receiving treatment, that can decrease infectivity to other individuals by 97 percent,” said Dr. Anil T. Mangla, Director of Infectious Disease and Immunizations and the acting State Epidemiologist. 

For nearly 30 years, the state has made HIV testing and HIV/AIDS awareness a priority. In September, 1985, public health focused attention on the spread of AIDS in Georgia and created the Georgia Task Force on AIDS to recommend strategies needed to combat the disease. Within the next year, the DHR Division of Public Health (DPH) initiated efforts to educate high-risk persons as well as professional and community groups about AIDS. A limited number of HIV antibody test sites had been established by April, 1985. By 1987, every County Public Health Department offered HIV antibody testing.