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New HIV Data Shows Where Prevention and Treatment are Needed Most

July 3, 2014

A tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS is getting even stronger.

Initially released in 2013, AIDSVu has now added more local data. The new release includes maps for 33 cities by zip codes, and in some cases by census tract. These cities, including Atlanta, account for 60 percent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic nationwide.

Created by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in partnership with Gilead Sciences, Inc., AIDSVu is a free, online interactive mapping system that lets users explore the HIV epidemic geographically. Using data supplied by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by state health departments, including Georgia, users can see how HIV impacts Atlanta and other major U.S. cities by ZIP code.

“By providing a means to visualize the epidemic, AIDSVu can help pinpoint those areas with the greatest need for prevention, testing, and treatment services,” said Pascale Wortley, M.D., MPH, HIV Epidemiology Section Chief for the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

The ZIP code tool uses DPH data, as does AIDSVu’s other maps of Georgia counties and the state as a whole. For many years, DPH has calculated the total burden of HIV and AIDS in the state and how many people in certain demographic groups – age, race, gender, etc. – are infected.

As of December 2012, there were 50,436 persons living with HIV in Georgia, and 2,911 persons were diagnosed with HV/AIDS.  Among persons living with HIV, 74 percent are men. Seventy-two percent of infections among men are attributed to male to male sexual contact and 72 percent of infections among women are attributed to heterosexual contact. Blacks account for 64 percent of persons living with HIV while accounting for only 30 percent of the population.

Based on Georgia surveillance data, an estimated 54 percent of diagnosed persons are minimally engaged in care, 38 percent are in regular care, and 39 percent have achieved viral suppression. Disparities exist across groups, with some of the lowest rates of viral suppression among young black men who have sex with men (25 percent).

"We know that HIV treatment is prevention," said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. "It is our hope that this tool will help us identify and link more Georgians living with HIV or AIDS to care." 

Information about HIV prevalence at the local level – as shown on AIDSVu – can also help individuals understand the impact of HIV in their communities and the importance of getting tested. The AIDSVu testing locator helps users find a place in their community to get tested for HIV.

Those living with HIV who stay in an appropriate treatment regimen are 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to someone else -- an efficacy rate even better than condoms. And, with current drug regimens, persons with HIV may have life expectancies similar to the general population.  

“Monitoring the proportion of diagnosed persons who are in care and have achieved viral suppression has become a focus of surveillance efforts because treatment is critical both to achieve optimal health outcomes, and to reduce transmission,” Wortley said.

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