50,000 people living with HIV in Georgia; pill could stop that number from growing

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – About 50,000 people are living with HIV in the state of Georgia, and about 2,000 of those are in Middle Georgia. That’s according to the North Central Health District.

Health care providers are making sure that number doesn’t increase, by making access to a preventative drug easier.

“It’s just another tool in the box,” said Dewayne Ford, AIDS Atlanta’s Director of HIV/AIDS and prevention.

It’s called PrEP. Short for prexposure prophylaxis.

“You realize the incidents rate is still where it is and it’s getting worse, then obviously without having to do a deeper dive, you see that people are using the condoms effectively,” said Ford. “We promote both PrEP as well as condom usage, not one over the other. But if someone decides to use PrEP then definitely condoms is the way to go.”

The daily pill, put on market in 2012, helps prevent HIV.

“It’s been available to the community since 2016,” said Camille Watson, Health Education supervisor at the Macon-Bibb County Health Department, and wants people to know there are options.

“If you’ve engaged in any type of unprotected sexual activity within the last six months, then you’re a candidate for PrEP. If you’ve been to treatment in the last six months then you’re a candidate for PrEP,” said Watson.

Watson says the health department accepts insurance, and most state funded medicaid programs will pay for PrEP.

“If none of that works, then we have have an outside source that we work with,” said Watson.

Watson and Ford just want people to know that help is available.

“I don’t think the resources are promoted well for people to know just how available and just how great the resources are and just how viable those options are that they could explore,” said Ford.

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Edna Ruiz joined the 41NBC news team in October of 2016. She was born and raised in Plant City, Florida. Edna graduated from the University of South Florida in May of 2016, majoring in Telecommunications with a focus in Broadcast News and a minor in Political Science. During her time at USF, she interned at Univision Tampa Bay, FOX 13 News and was the On-Air Promotions announcer for the New York Yankees during Spring Training. She was a USF Latino Scholar and a member of Alpha Delta Pi. She comes from a Mexican-American background and is fluent in Spanish. Although she’s very new to the area, she is excited to be serving the Middle Georgia community. Edna loves to meet new people and hear their stories. So, if you have a story idea or just want to say hi, feel free to reach out to her at eruiz@41NBC.com