A newly published study about HIV conducted in Mississippi, could reduce the alarming spread of the infection in the state and nationwide.
Jackson has the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation according to Dr. Leandro Mena with the University of Mississippi Medical Center. In fact, he says half of the black men who sleep with men will become HIV infected in their lifetime. Mena co-authored a study that followed 600 young Jackson men who sleep with men. Some were HIV positive. Others were not. Mena randomly divided them into two groups. One received condoms only. The other group was given condoms and educated about using them during a one hour clinic visit.
"It was an education-based intervention where people learned about the risk of HIV and other STD's. Where people learned about negotiating condom use and they also learned about experimenting with different kinds of condoms," said Mena.
Mena followed the men for 12 months and says condom use increased among those who had the medical visit. He conducted the study between 2012 and 2016. The National Institutes of Health provided more than $2 million for the research. Mena says it's the first study of its type nationally to look at the challenges facing young black men in medium size cities like Jackson. He says teaching young black men who sleep with men about their sexual health could combat spreading HIV. Kerry Johnson is a Psycho Therapist with Open Arms Medical Center the first LGBT clinic in the state. She's excited about the study because she says education is working.
"A lot of people are coming back for condoms. Some time even if they don't have a doctors appointment they'll come back in and just come in for the free condoms," said Johnson.
Mena says the study has been published online in a medical journal and is drawing national attention.
More information is available from Mena about HIV and STD's at: #Ask the HIV doc