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Associated Press
Most Mississippi residents with HIV skip treatment

January 31, 2012
Associated Press - January 31, 2012

JACKSON -- More than two-thirds of the Mississippi residents who test positive for the AIDS virus don't get medical treatment, state health officials say.

Those people not only shorten their own lives but increase the risk of spreading the virus, State health officer Mary Currier told The Clarion-Ledger.

Statewide, more than 9,500 Mississippi residents are known to have human immunodeficiency virus. Nearly one-quarter of them are in Hinds County.

Reasons people with HIV don't get the care they need include cost, fear that others would look down on them, lack of access to doctors, and denial, since many people with HIV feel relatively well for years, doctors said.

"Some people in the Delta drive here to Jackson because they don't want the stigma," said Valencia Robinson, executive director for Mississippi in Action and an advocate for those living with HIV.

Besides not wanting others to know they're infected, people with HIV sometimes deny it to themselves, said Dr. Leandro Mena, associate professor of medicine for the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

"People feel relatively well for many years," he said, so they don't take the drugs that can stave off AIDS and let them live relatively normal lives.

Without reliable public transportation, he said, many patients rely on getting rides to appointments, and don't want to tell it's for HIV.

The daily medication also makes it hard to hide the disease, he said. "If you have to hide your medicine, you may forget to take it."

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