PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The number of Americans infected with HIV is holding steady according to a new government report released today. But that’s not the situation in Philadelphia. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more.
The new federal health report says there are about 50,000 new HIV cases a year. While those number have been steady nationally, HIV in Philadelphia continues to grow. We have one of the highest rates in the country.
Gladys Gutierrez has been living with HIV for 26 years, and a lot has changed. Now she takes just seven pills a day. It used to be over 40. She was infected with a blood transfusion, and remembers when she was first diagnosed.
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“I actually sat in the corner and cried for about an hour. And it was scary,” said Gladys.
“It’s not a death sentence. You catch it early, you get on meds, you take care of yourself, and you can live a long life,” said Nancy Molock, who is also HIV positive. She’s part of a troubling trend in Philadelphia. One in every 50 African Americans in the city has the virus that can lead to AIDS.
“It all boils down to taking risk, and that’s what people are doing they’re taking too many risks,” said Nancy.
“Philadelphia rates are five times the national average, one-and-a-half times that of New York City, which used to be the urban epicenter. So Philadelphia is in a lot of trouble,” said Gary Bell, the Director of Bebashi Transition To Hope. It’s an organization dedicated to sexual health care and prevention. He blames poverty for Philadelphia’s high rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
“Within poverty you have homelessness, you have substance abuse. And all those co-morbidities as we call them lead people to make unhealthy choices,” said Gary.
Also, about 20 percent of people who are HIV positive don’t know it, and can unknowingly be infecting others.
Bebashi offers a variety of services including screenings, counseling and free condoms.
Reported by Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3