Emory-created AIDS map pinpoints disease

Created by Emory University, the interactive map uses state and county level data to pinpoint areas where rates of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are highest nationally. It offers a fresh perspective that will help identify areas most in need of prevention resources and hopefully spur people to action, said Patrick Sullivan, Emory associate professor of epidemiology.

“Are we matching up the services, the testing, the care resources to the communities that are most impacted?” Sullivan said.

More than 1 million people in the country live with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, Georgia had 33,282 adults and adolescents who had contracted HIV, with at least 354 of every 100,000 individuals living with the virus, the data showed. Emory worked with state health departments and the CDC to gather information for the project.

Georgia ranked sixth highest among states in reported AIDS cases with 38,300 in 2008, CDC data showed.

Privacy was a major focus in putting the map together. The CDC adheres to strict privacy guidelines that govern how data is collected and shared with the way its disseminated out based on the size of a particular population, said Dr. Jianglan White, head of the HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Section at the state Division of Public Health. Certain data were withheld because of a small number of cases or small populations in some areas.

The online map offers regional and national views not provided by looking at states alone, Sullivan said. The Southeast, for instance, has some of the highest rates of HIV in the country.

“People look at this map and almost without exception say, ‘Wow,’” Sullivan said.

Large disparities exist among races, with blacks and Hispanics having higher rates of infection than whites. HIV rates are also closely tied to poverty, with poor individuals lacking access to basic medical services and HIV testing, Sullivan said.

African-Americans have been hit much harder, in part, because they are more economically disadvantaged, said Tracy Elliott, executive director of the nonprofit AID Atlanta. “Their health care disparities are significant and tragic.”

HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS, leaving a person’s immune system severely damaged and unable to fight disease. The first cases were reported by the CDC on June 5, 1981.

Emory’s mapping tool allows users to examine HIV rates by race, gender and age. The map is a visual tool that has the ability to generate public awareness and help community groups better design and locate intervention sites, White said.

The website contains information about state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs and estimates the percentage of HIV diagnoses made late in the course of the disease. A recent study showed that men and women with HIV can drastically reduce the risk of passing the virus to a partner by taking oral medicine in the early stages when their immune systems are still relatively healthy.

Individuals can also look up HIV testing sites near them, Sullivan said, adding that the map will be updated with various elements during the year.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 at 4:07 am and is filed under Health Notes. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

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