By: Laura-Jane Hatcher (WRGA News)
December is AIDs and HIV awareness month. And though medicine and diagnostics have developed much since the disease’s first detection in the early 80s, the numbers are still chilling.
Georgia ranks eighth on the list of states with the highest number of infected individuals. Even in Northwest Georgia, the rampant use of Methamphetamines has caused HIV infection to be a significant problem, said Frank Tant of the Rome Aids Resource Council.
“When you consider the use of Crystal Meth in this area---that is the big reason why people are connoting to become HIV positive,” he said. “Crystal Meth use is so rampant in rural Georgia, and when people do Crystal Meth it makes them sexually hyper, and they will have intercourse without thinking about using a condom.”
The AIDs resource council works locally to combat the disease with education and free anonymous HIV testing. Since Tant’s own diagnosis over 25 years ago, tests for HIV have improved leaps and bounds. People once had to wait three days for results. Tant now uses OraQuick, a swab that gives results in less than 30 minutes.
Because some people have misguidedly linked male homosexuality with HIV infection, they might believe they’re impervious to the crippling disease. Tant said this is worryingly incorrect. The fastest growing population of people testing HIV positive are Heterosexual Female Minorities.
“ HIV is not just a gay man’s disease, and hasn’t been for years. The H in HIV stands for human. The only real risk factor for contracting HIV is being human,” He said. “Assume that everybody is HIV positive. Even though it is illegal for someone who is HIV positive to have intercourse with you without telling you beforehand, the CDC says that 30% of the people who are HIV positive don’t know because they haven’t been tested.”
Along with free testing, the Rome AIDS Resource Council helps local HIV positive individuals with food and bills when they need it.