Southern states are leading the nation in new HIV infections according to a report this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, health officials tell MPB's Ashley Norwood Mississippi is making progress.
Aaron Jones is a 24-year-old college student. The Lowndes County native says he grew up hoping to one day become a pediatrician. At age 16 he became HIV positive and things changed.
"I have contracted HIV at a young age and everything went left so I felt like my whole life had changed. I didn't have anybody to tell me like this is what's out here and this is how you need to protect yourself so it's like I had to find my own way and then I bumped my head," said Jones.
Dr. Leandro Mena is an infectious disease specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He says though it's not a major decrease, Mississippi's HIV rate is slowly declining. In 2010, there were 464 diagnoses of HIV reported to the CDC. In 2016, there were 424 cases.
"The number of people who are being infected with HIV every year in Mississippi has been progressively decreasing for the past 10 years. Although the difference is not necessarily significant, our epidemic is getting better," says Mena.
Mena says one of the biggest challenges in Mississippi is access to information about certain treatments and health services.
"Science has given us a tool to be able to eliminate HIV epidemic. But, the challenge that we have ahead of us is that we need to come up with systems of health that can deliver these interventions to the people who need them the most," said Mena.
Mena encourages Mississippians to get tested. More information about treatments and health services for infectious diseases is on the University of Mississippi Medical Center website. Ashley Norwood, MPB News.