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Coronavirus

Experts Say HIV Testing down in US amid Pandemic

September 14, 2020

ATLANTA — The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the fight against HIV. Across the U.S. South, clinics have stopped or limited testing for the AIDS virus and public health officials overwhelmed by demands to control COVID-19 have shifted staff away from tracking HIV patients.

Progress against the virus had already stalled in recent years. Now, health experts and advocates worry the country is at risk of backsliding, with a spike in new HIV infections because people don’t know they have the disease, aren’t aware if their treatment is working or aren’t getting a drug that can prevent them from getting HIV in the first place.

“We’re losing people who are doing HIV testing and focusing on HIV to the COVID-19 response,” said Ace Robinson, with the national nonprofit HIV eradication group, NMAC. “And that means that we’re not able to support people to maintain the care that they deserve.”

The issue is of particular concern in the South, which accounted for more than half of the country’s roughly 37,000 HIV infections in 2018 and has been a focus of the Trump administration’s goal of eradicating the disease by 2030. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer people in the South are aware that they have HIV compared with other regions in the U.S.

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