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Online HIV map adds Birmingham to latest edition

June 25, 2015 The rate of HIV infection is nearly 20 times higher in inner-city Birmingham neighborhoods than it is in the suburbs, according to a website that tracks the virus in almost three dozen cities.

 

Birmingham.jpg
A map of HIV rates in Birmingham, from the website AIDSVu. (AIDSVu)
Amy Yurkanin | ayurkanin@al.comBy Amy Yurkanin | ayurkanin@al.com 
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on June 24, 2015 at 11:29 AM, updated June 24, 2015 at 12:43 PM
 
 
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The rate of HIV infection is nearly 20 times higher in inner-city Birmingham neighborhoods than it is in the suburbs, according to a website that tracks the virus in almost three dozen cities.

AIDSVu is an interactive map that shows which areas have been hardest-hit by HIV infection. The map shows infections across the nation, in the states and down to the zip-code level in 35 cities. Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health and Gilead Sciences, Inc. partnered to create AIDSVu. Birmingham joined the list for the first time this year.

Patrick Sullivan, professor of epidemiology at Emory University and the founder of AIDSVu, said he added Birmingham to include another major city in the South, which has become the center of the HIV epidemic.

"Birmingham tells the story of the heavy impact of HIV in the South and in Southern cities," Sullivan said.

Even though Birmingham has been heavily impacted by HIV and AIDS, not all areas of the city are affected equally. The disease is particularly prevalent in some of the poorest neighborhoods, and less common in more affluent areas.

"There is a really rich and complex fabric to the HIV epidemic," Sullivan said. "It doesn't affect all parts equally."

Black men are more than four times more likely to contract HIV than white men, and black women have rates of infection that are more than 10 times higher than white women. Almost two-thirds of men with HIV contracted it from male-to-male sex, according to AIDSVu.

Josh Bruce, education director for Birmingham AIDS Outreach, said the statewide HIV map has been a great tool for raising awareness of HIV in the community.

"Whenever I'm doing an HIV presentation, I always start off talking about this map," Bruce said. "Whenever I ask the question of where people think HIV infections are happening, people always say New York, San Francisco and L.A."

Bruce then pulls out the map to show that many new infections are actually happening in the South – and in Alabama.

"Birmingham tells the story of the heavy impact of HIV in the South and in Southern cities."

"When they see the highest rates are really here in the Southeast, it informs the person that this is something that is happening here," Bruce said.

Sullivan said the map can raise awareness of HIV in the community.

"Some people realize for the first time that they are living in a place that's heavily affected by HIV," he said.

It can also be useful for agencies that provide care to those living with HIV and AIDS.

Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama used data available from AIDSVu to set up telemedicine centers in areas hard hit by HIV and underserved by doctors, Sullivan said.

Bruce said his organization can also use the zip code level data to develop programs and seek grants. In helping raise awareness of the disease in Alabama, he said he hopes to reduce some of the stigma, which is widespread in Alabama.

"A lot of people don't want to admit that HIV is here," Bruce said.

They also don't want to admit they might have it. Testing and treatment are the only ways to prevent the continued spread of HIV in Alabama.

His organization is partnering with AIDS of Alabama and Walgreens to offer free testing this week in honor of National HIV Testing Day on Saturday. Click here to find locations offering free testing this week.

Source: http://www.al.com/news/birmingham/index.ssf/2015/06/online_aids_map_adds_birmingha.html

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