Tuesday, June 01, 2021

High HIV case rate in Miss. blamed on rural stigma, lack of broadband/telehealth and reticence to discuss sexual health

New HIV diagnoses are declining in the U.S., mostly because the preventive drug PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is being used more widely. But diagnoses have remained high in Mississippi, especially in rural areas, because of stigma and lack of telehealth or broadband, Sarah Fowler reports for The Washington Post.

Those factors contribute to an overall increase in rural HIV cases, according to a May 2020 report by the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services. Black and Latino Americans are also at a higher risk of becoming infected. 

Mississippi, which is largely rural and has the largest Black population percentage of any state, finds itself at the crosshairs of both trends. "Despite a recent push to install broadband across the state, many still don’t have reliable Internet access. Without it, telehealth services aren’t an option," Fowler reports.

Another problem is that health-care providers are often uncomfortable having frank conversations about sexual health with patients. As Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi's chief health officer, told Fowler: "People don't want to talk about sex in the South."

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