The HIV epidemic in Louisiana is growing more and more everyday!
New Study Shows Louisiana Is Leading America In Its HIV Epidemic
Via AEON reports:
In the 30 years since the first cases were reported in the US, HIV – transmitted predominantly through unprotected sex and sharing needles – has become a disease that thrives on poverty, sexual stigma and racial inequality. For this reason, the geography of the disease has shifted from urban coastal regions to the southern states: where those problems are most prevalent, so is the virus.
Louisiana’s HIV epidemic is a direct consequence of its severe social conditions. The state is among the poorest and worst-educated in the country, and holds the ranking as the most incarcerated. Moral opposition to homosexuality is heavily legislated. Religious and political conservatism reign, leading to discriminatory laws and policies. The conglomeration of factors at play in Louisiana starkly illustrates why HIV continues to spread in the US despite the fact that it is entirely preventable, and why so many Americans are still dying of AIDS when the virus is almost entirely treatable.
The numbers are grim. As of 2011, approximately 17,735 people were living with HIV in Louisiana, out of 1.1 million nationwide. Some 50 per cent had been diagnosed with AIDS, versus the national estimated rate of 15.8 per cent. Several thousand more people in Louisiana – an estimated 1,858 in New Orleans alone – are living with HIV and don’t know it.
In a dark auditorium filled with Tulane Medical School students, Dery shows slides explaining why the social conditions of Louisiana are so well suited for the biology of the virus. With his motorcycle boots and slicked hair, he looks better-matched to a stage than to a lecture hall. But his unconventional appearance – heavily tattooed, including the word ‘pacifist’ on his wrist and dressed in a black three-piece suit, the skateboard he rode to work stashed in a corner – helps keep their attention. His frequent swipes at the state government and other powers-that-be all seem like part of the show.
A virus with genetic material made of single-stranded RNA, HIV is especially susceptible to the introduction of errors during replication. ‘It’s an evolutionary advantage to have a lot of errors,’ says Dery. Those errors, or mutations, enable the virus to evade the immune system, which is unable to recognise each new form. Once inside a human host, the RNA is converted into double-stranded DNA and spliced into the host’s genome. ‘Once you’re infected, you’re infected forever,’ Dery tells the room, emphasis on forever.
Medical strides, however, have turned HIV into a chronic disease. Most infected people can live a normal, relatively healthy life as long as they are diagnosed early enough and take their medication as prescribed. Today’s antiretroviral drugs suppress the viral load – that is, they lower the amount of virus circulating in the bloodstream – to the extent that someone in proper care has almost no risk of infecting someone else.
You can read the entire story about Louisiana’s HIV epidemic HERE. What do you think of the latest findings??