Originally published Dec. 10, 2012
In honor of World AIDS Day, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) hosted its first Twitter chat Dec. 1 with a conversation focused on HIV/AIDS in Georgia.
Public health leaders and Georgians across the state joined the chat to spread awareness about HIV's impact on Georgia and the challenges that remain in addressing it. The chat, which focused on HIV prevention, treatment and the groups most at risk of infection, reached nearly 27,000 followers on Twitter, according to Twitter tracking website Hashtracking.com.
The chat came a few days after the CDC released alarming data about HIV among young Americans. The agency reported that one in four new HIV cases each year occur in youth ages 13 to 24, and about 60 percent of young people with HIV don't know they are infected and don't receive treatment, increasing the risk of early death and transmission to others. For more about HIV in youth, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/HIVAmongYouth/.
Twitter chat participant Melanie Thompson, M.D., special advisor to DPH commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., on HIV, STD, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, said tools like Twitter are very promising for public health educators.
"This illustrates the power of social media to reach far beyond its immediate participants," Thompson said. "Public health needs new tools of engagement and new partnerships to achieve our goals. I'm excited that we are breaking new ground, 140 characters at a time."
J. Patrick O'Neal, M.D., DPH director of health protection; Kevin Fenton, M.D., director of the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention; Carlos del Rio, M.D., co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research; and Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, also joined the chat.
Twitter chat participants said fighting this epidemic in Georgia means reaching out to youth most vulnerable to infection, particularly young African-American men and men who have sex with men.
Another tool in fighting HIV/AIDS in Georgia is the CAPUS program, a DPH initiative that links HIV-positive Georgians with the treatment they need. CAPUS also focuses on promoting increased, targeted HIV testing and will allow DPH to track care linkage with viral suppression.
Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for the number of AIDS cases reported through the end of 2009. In 2010, officials counted 40,328 Georgians living with HIV/AIDS. Nationally, the CDC estimates that 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV.
For up-to-date information on public health in Georgia and news of future DPH Twitter chats, follow DPH (@GaDPH) on Twitter.