Home Social Justice HIV/AIDS rates in Ohio remain high, research shows how to lower them

HIV/AIDS rates in Ohio remain high, research shows how to lower them

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Ohio has the resources to drastically reduce the amount of people infected with HIV/AIDS but lacks the commitment and coordinated leadership needed to effectively put an end to the epidemic, according to a report from the Center for Community Solutions.

There are 4,000 Ohioans infected with HIV who are unaware that they are infected, according to a report from the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee. Out of those infected, a majority are able to spread the disease with others.

“A renewed commitment is required from the public, private, and philanthropic sectors in order to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Ohio,” the CCS report said.

There is also a disparity in the demographics of those being infected with HIV. Youth under the age of 24 account for 25 percent of the infections, and African-American men account for 60 percent of the infections in Ohio, according to the report’s author and Center for Community Solutions President John R. Corlett. Nationally, 26 percent of new infections came from the 13-24 age group in 2010. African-Americans made up 44 percent of all new infections the same year, despite making up 12 percent of the U.S. population, according to the JMOC report.

Although communication between organizations has improved, Corlett notes this is one of the issues with current HIV/AIDS research in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Medicaid do not work together in tracking whether people with HIV/AIDS are receiving care, according to the report.

“The data exists out there, it’s just not pulled together,” Corlett said. “If we could could pull it together and could look at it, then we could see where we need to go: here’s the part of the state where we have an issue, and here’s where things are going really well. What can we learn from folks doing well, and how can we apply that to places that aren’t doing well?”

The Ohio Department of Health is currently working on a federally mandated five-year plan for HIV prevention that involves including Medicaid, state agencies and private organizations in the process, Corlett said.

“That creates a platform we can pull together to say, ‘What are we going to do about this?’” Corlett said. “In the past the goals around this have been rather modest, a two-tenths of one percent reduction — that’s really not good enough. We need to set a larger goal of eliminating the infection in the state. I think we can do that, but unless we set a goal like that and unless we challenge ourselves to do that, it’s not going to happen.”

The recommendations detailed at the end of the report emphasize collaboration between Ohio organizations that stem from strong leadership. The report specifically points to the governor’s Office of Health Transformation and notes its success in improving Ohio’s health care system. Ohio would benefit from its leadership, according to the report.

“I think a lot of people felt that when you say you want to end the HIV epidemic in Ohio or the United States for that matter, people wonder if that’s possible,” Corlett said. “But when you look at it, it is possible. It takes policy change and it takes government, both local and state, and it takes private organizations to step up and take some leadership.”

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