By Jason Miller
Mississippi residents who need to get tested for HIV will soon have to pay $25 for the privilege.
The decision, made by the State Department of Health after a round of budget cuts, is just the latest in a long string of moves that has left the southern state particularly vulnerable in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Last year, the Magnolia State was among the top five states for overall STDs and Jackson ranked fourth for cities with the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses.
While the situation is already bleak for those struggling to afford access to prevention and care resources in the state, sexual health activists say it will only get worse once the new charge goes into effect July 1.
“It’s not one or two people, it’s families, it’s whole communities,” Deja Abdul-Haqq of HIV prevention NGO My Brother’s Keeper told the Clarion-Ledger. “This epidemic in Mississippi, especially in Jackson, is so concentrated that there’s no way for you to misinterpret this.”
“When four in 10 gay and bisexual men are HIV positive, when we are third in the nation for chlamydia, fifth in the nation for gonorrhea and 12th in the nation for syphilis, when syphilis rates have practically tripled, it’s not just an epidemic, it’s an epidemic on fire and your solution is to take away the small cup of water that we actually have to help.”
The state department declined to comment.
Last March, the Trump administration announced that it intended to slash upwards of $350 million from the federal budget set aside for HIV/AIDS funded research.
White House budget documents supplied to Congress revealed that President Trump planned to gut $242 million from the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) with an additional $50 million cut from both the domestic HIV/AIDS budget as well as the CDC’s Global HIV/AIDS program.