Those getting tested for HIV in Mississippi will soon have to pay $25 to do so.
Mississippi already has a horrible record in the fight against HIV/AIDS, being one of the worst-performing areas in the country. For instance, a study out of Emory University found that 40 percent of men who have sex with men in the city of Jackson are infected with HIV – the highest rate in the United States.
And yet the State Department of Health has just confirmed it will be ending free testing for HIV.
The change will go into effect on July 1. From then on, Mississippi residents must pay a $25 fee to get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. This decision comes after a round of state budget cuts.
Sexual health experts are already waving red flags, pointing to the fact that people living with undiagnosed HIV are much more likely to transmit it to others and that this seems unavoidable for people unable or unwilling to pay the $25 fee.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already released data that says STDs are on a heavy rise in Mississippi, with a 283 percent increase of syphilis diagnoses in just the past four years.
“It’s not one or two people, it’s families, it’s whole communities,” Deja Abdul-Haqq of HIV prevention NGO My Brother’s Keeper told the Clarion-Ledger. “This epidemic in Mississippi, especially in Jackson, is so concentrated that there’s no way for you to misinterpret this.”
“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.”