Mississippi is charging people $25 to get an HIV test
People getting tested for HIV in Mississippi will soon have to pay $25 for the privilege.
The deep south state, which provides little in the way of safe sex education, is already one of the worst-performing areas in the US in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
A recent Emory University study found that 40% of men who have sex with men in state capital Jackson are infected with HIV, the highest rates in the country.
However, things are expected to get worse in the state, after the State Department of Health confirmed it would be ending free tests for HIV.
Under the changes coming in from July 1, residents will have to pay a $25 fee of they want to get tested for HIV or sexually transmitted diseases in Mississippi.
The decision comes after a round of budget cuts, but sexual health experts say the irresponsible decision will leave vulnerable people unaware that they are living with HIV.
People living with undiagnosed HIV are far more likely to transmit it onto others, as proper medical treatment lowers the viral load and the risk of onward transmission.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, STDs are already skyrocketing in the state, with a 283% increase of syphilis diagnoses in the past four years alone.
Deja Abdul-Haqq of HIV prevention NGO My Brother’s Keeper savaged the cuts.
She told the Clarion-Ledger: “It’s not one or two people, it’s families, it’s whole communities.
“This epidemic in Mississippi, especially in Jackson, is so concentrated that there’s no way for you to misinterpret this.
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“When four in 10 gay and bisexual men are HIV positive, when we are third in the nation for chlamydia, fifth in the nation for gonorrhea and 12th in the nation for syphilis, when syphilis rates have practically tripled, it’s not just an epidemic, it’s an epidemic on fire and your solution is to take away the small cup of water that we actually have to help.”
The state department did not comment.
Federal HIV/AIDS funding is also expected to be slashed by the Trump administration.
Donald Trump and Mike Pence have made proposals to gut the funding for the US’s pioneering HIV/AIDS prevention projects.
The bulk of the cuts are proposed to the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which was set up by former President George W Bush to tackle the AIDS crisis, and is one of the largest providers of funding for global projects battling the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Further cuts are also set out in the document for the domestic HIV/AIDS budget, with an additional cut from the CDC’s Global HIV/AIDS program. The cuts proposals come despite previous assurances that HIV/AIDS budgets would be protected.