Since launching its HIV testing program in 2013, Grady Hospital in Atlanta diagnoses an average of two or three patients with HIV every day. Yes, every day.
“This is something that keeps me awake at night,” Dr. Abigail Hankin-Wei tells WABE.
Hankin-Wei runs the hospital’s FOCUS HIV testing program, the only emergency department in Atlanta that offers HIV testing to every patient that comes into the hospital regardless of their reason for being there.
“Among our patients at Grady, nearly half of them have AIDS the day we diagnose them,” Hankin-Wei says.
Atlanta is ranked first in the nation when it comes to the rate of new diagnoses of HIV/AIDS. According to WABE, it takes approximately eight to 10 years for untreated HIV to advance to clinical AIDS, which means many patients at Grady Hospital who test positive have been living with and potentially spreading the virus for many years without knowing it.
“Diagnosing people to get people on treatment is our best method to prevent further transmission,” Wendy Armstrong, the director of the Ponce de Leon Center, an AIDS care facility in Atlanta, tells WABE.
“Our massive group out there who are not tested are folks out there who often don’t have primary care physicians because they’re young, and there’s not a need for that and no insurance if they they did wish to have a primary care physician,” Armstrong says.
Experts say other reasons people don’t get tested may include stigma, fear of a positive diagnosis, or lack of transportation. People might also think they’re not at risk because they’re in a monogamous relationship.
According to the CDC, around 14 percent of Americans with HIV or AIDS don’t even know they’re infected.
Hankin-Wei says she often sees a steady stream of patients suffering with non-existent immune systems because of untreated HIV when working the overnight shift at Grady Hospital.
“Those patients, we have failed,” she said. “I want to be clear. We: physicians, lawmakers, public health professionals.”
Hankin-Wei believes making routine HIV testing part of all health care is the first step ending this problem.
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Very scary and unfortunate
That hospital is a death trap. Y’all saw what happened to Beth
The Strategy. BEFORE sex get tested TOGETHER for A VARIETY OF STIs then make an INFORMED decision, google… tested together before
I’m not at all surprised with all of the raw sex parties that happen in that city. And with all the hot butts and penis always available not to mention the many visitors that visit with the hopes of getting some of those hot butts and penis it is a haven for this kind of epidemic. 285 is not that big.
@1copaseticsoul: Yeah, I have to agree with you. I’ve been there before and it is bad.
Jesus Christ. I am so glad that I have always been an unrelenting, stubborn, stickler when it comes to using protection.
That’s just scary! I agree DarkZephyr, it’s condoms or not at all here.
I know of one reason. Most who did not live through the 80s (Thank you Reagan for doing nothing) and survived… I’m saying 30 years and younger actually believe HIV has been cured! I was shocked when a 19 said he didn’t worry about it because it had been cured. Needless to say, I wanted to kick his ass but calmly educated him the on the facts!
Also why outdide of the urban gay community does no one know about Prep . Ask a straight friend and they will be shocked that such a drug is avaliable.
Charles Sherwood Morrill
Prep is not 100% like any drug, people develope an immunity to it or are resistant to it from the start. But doctors don’t talk about that
Condoms, condoms, condoms!
I think most of the comments miss the real point. There was no health care for most of those people diagnosed with AIDS for YEARS after they were infected with HIV. All the Republican governors (virtuall ALL of the South) who will not expand Medicaid to those without health insurance are the real problem for keeping that stupidity going. If these people who only get tested when they are desparetly ill and admitted to hospitals, had been tested and treated early, Atlanta and Georgia wouldn’t have such a shameful record.
@DarkZephyr: Maybe a better take on this is not a pat on your shoulders but a concern for others. Yes getting it is one thing but letting it go on is another matter all together. Economics and social stigma is what this article is about.
Because people avoided getting tested for years on end thinking “it can’t happen to me”. Testing should be much more routine and standardized – throughout the U.S. !!
Increased testing ,PrEP uptake and access to treatment at the time of diagnosis
Orean Keels Jr.
AIDS should not be a label simply based on the number of CD4 cells, and you should not be considered to still have AIDS once your numbers rise. The term AIDS itself is misleading because it doesn’t actually mean you “have” anything, just that you are vulnerable to infections.
demographically targeted based on race, class, lifestyle, sexual preference, and address.
@jimontp: “If these people who only get tested when they are desparetly[sic] ill and admitted to hospitals, had been tested and treated early, Atlanta and Georgia wouldn’t have such a shameful record.”
You can’t test and treat someone early if they do not come in at the early stages of infection. I read the article… and it did not get past me that some of those men being tested for HIV had already progressed to full blown AIDS. There are a LOT of point here… not just one. The abysmal health care system that Republicans continue to gut in favor of preventing tax cuts to their 1%-er buddies. The rampant spreading of HIV/AIDS in Atlanta that could easily be prevented with safe sex AND regular testing — but at the same time, I have no real right shoving my morality and limited experience with HIV/AIDS on those suffering from this disease. Because some people really do practice safe sex and still get infected. Could be a blood transfusion gone wrong… could have been born with HIV due to an infected mother. I mean, there are multiple things at play here.
The answer to the headline question is simple: the nature of the program in question. Who is going to go to an emergency room for an HIV test? Mostly, people who are already sick. How many people aren’t caught before that point may well depend on insurance availability and so forth, but regardless of all that, the *proportion* sounds about right.
Bryan F. Irrera
1) probably because these patients have ignored their symptoms/problems not wanting to know their status for years. (In a similar way that my grandfather evaded the doctors for years to not hear he had cancer. Somehow the diagnosis makes it worse in some people’s minds. It becomes “real” only when confirmed. They can pretend it doesn’t exist until then).
I would suspect that some of these patients were also in long time denial about their 1) sexuality or 2) drug use (or both).
There’s a part of me that’s assuming that these patients are coming primarily from the black community where it’s harder to come out about being gay and in church going communities that frown upon sex education in schools.
Billy Clifton Jr
Funny how most people think this statistic is talking about gay men only. To those who mentioned PrEP. It’s great if you have health care, can afford it, take it daily, and go for your every three month follow-up, which thank God I do.
Come on people stop barebacking….
Its the South- republican red state- what do you expect.
The correct term is always… safer
There’s never zero risk.
@1copaseticsoul: Indeed. Plus you have lots of men who are poz who think that it’s OK for them to do it raw with other poz guys and they’re in complete denial about reinfection, getting new strains of HIV, infecting someone that’s poz with another strain, getting other STDs and the “truvada whores” who do it raw and think Truvada will protect them against all strains of HIV are just as bad. PReP is actually pretty toxic or bad for your body, and has not so fun side effects, and it’s meant to be used with condoms which are far more effective than it.
@Charles Sherwood Morrill: Indeed. It also had some very bad side effects both long term, and short term. I won’t put it into my body, and condoms are far more effective.
1 hyphenated word:
The fact is a lot of factors are at play here. First as the physician points out, the majority of the people she sees are poor and have no health care at all. I am willing to be they are poor Blacks and Whites as both groups have access to health care at the same rate – none accept as a charity case at a hospital.
They are likely to be poorly educated as well which means for many of them they are unclear on how STDs spread including AIDS. I have heard some shocking claims made by people about how if they urinate after sex or douche after sex the virus will not infect them or just as bad, that only receptive partners get HIV infections. There is also a myth that HIV only affects gay, white males, so a Black or Latino is less likely to get it.
In some states there has been an outreach to the minority communities where the spread of HIV is far greater now than it ever has been. But in many places there is no effort made to do anything. This is especially true in the South and in other red states. When Indiana shut down the funding to Planned Parenthood clinics in that state, the rates of STD’s including HIV blew through the rook because in poorer areas of the state, Planned Parenthood was the only agency doing testing and treating for STD’s.
Then there is social stigma. In many parts of the country the presumption is that only urban gay men get HIV. So minority men on the down-low not to mention those using injection drugs [an epidemic now in states like Indiana, Ohio, Missouri and large parts of the South] are using and sharing needles without any understanding of the risk of HIV infection from doing so. Given the attitude of the greater population that they deserve what happens to them, the infection rates will only continue to rise.
Finally as someone mentioned, an equally serious issue is the belief among a lot of younger gay men that HIV/AIDS is a thing of the past. They think it has been cured or that if someone becomes infected they just take a pill and everything is fine. The fact is this is not true and never has been true. As the number of HIV+ people who are compliant with the drug regime increases and ages, medical issues are starting to rise among them which point out issues with the long term use of those drugs. Increases in heart disease and stroke are higher, there is recent research about how the drugs strip the protective barrier for the brain case allowing for issues with memory and dementia and other issues as well.
The point is that complacency among the gay community and disdain among certain parts of the wider community have contributed to a spread of HIV/AIDS and will contiue to do so unless proactive steps are taken.
@1copaseticsoul: It’s like that in pretty much any large city, and even in small towns.
What I mean is that if people are going to have unprotected sex with lots of strangers they will do this and seek out partners to do this with no matter where they live. I’ve seen this happen with people even in small towns.
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