Department of Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Loren Robinson joined State Representative Jake Wheatley on Monday to discuss the prevention, prevalence, and treatment of HIV as part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pa.
“HIV disease has a disproportionate impact on African Americans not only in Pennsylvania but throughout the country,” Dr. Robinson said. “We are working to make our state a place where new HIV infections are rare. When new cases do occur, we want to ensure that every person has access to high quality, life-extending care free from stigma and discrimination.”
In 2017, 965 adult/adolescent cases of HIV were reported in Pennsylvania. Of those, more than 460 cases were black/African American individuals. African Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV, particularly African American men who have sex with men (MSM). Current data shows that nearly one in two African American MSM will acquire HIV in his lifetime. The higher risk for HIV is due to a number of factors such as lack of awareness of HIV status, the number of people living with the infection in their communities, stigma surrounding HIV, discrimination and homophobia. Socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, such as access to health care; housing; and prevention education increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV.
To prevent new cases of HIV, the department provides HIV testing at many locations across the state for individuals at highest risk of infection. It is recommended that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care.
Through collaboration with seven regional grantees, individuals living with HIV and their families who have no other means to pay for services have access to statewide resources to help with medical needs and treatment. Some services for those affected by HIV include:
- Free and confidential HIV testing;
- Core medical and support services for eligible individuals through the Ryan White Program;
- Housing assistance for eligible individuals living with HIV; and
- Transitional planning for persons living with HIV who are being released from state correctional facilities.