Alex Blaze

Human Rights Watch Compares Mississippi HIV/AIDS Services to Ethiopia

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 10, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Haley Barbour, health care reform, HIV/AIDS, Mississippi, south

HRW filed a report on HIV/AIDS in Mississippi. Remember, they're talking about a part of the richest country in the world that constantly says it has the best health care system in the world:

Anti-G8 Demonstrations (01) - 05Jun07, Rostock (Germany)The 59-page report, "Rights at Risk: State Response to HIV in Mississippi," documents the harmful impact of Mississippi's policies on state residents, including people living with HIV and those at high risk of contracting it. Mississippi refuses to provide complete, accurate information about HIV prevention to students and threatens criminal penalties for failing to disclose one's HIV status to sexual partners. At the same time, Mississippi provides little or no funding for HIV prevention, housing, transportation, or prescription drug programs for people living with HIV, and the state fails to take full advantage of federal subsidies to bolster these programs. In Mississippi, half of people testing positive for the virus are not receiving treatment, a rate comparable to that in Botswana, Ethiopia, and Rwanda.

"Many people living with HIV in Mississippi can't get to clinics, can't afford treatment, and can't keep a roof over their heads, while young people can't get essential information about how to protect themselves," said Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch. "These are public health failures that threaten fundamental rights to life and health of all Mississippians."

This what is meant when we say that America acts like it has a disposable population - some people complain that their seven-figure salaries are peanuts next to their friends with eight-figure salaries while other people aren't sure if they're going to eat every day. And it should go without saying that people with a home are going to be healthier than homeless people:

One husband and wife interviewed by Human Rights Watch are both HIV-positive. He is in a wheelchair, debilitated from AIDS, and they live in constant fear of eviction as their limited income is barely sufficient to pay the rent. Despite evidence that housing is critical to the ability of individuals with HIV to maintain their health, and the state's own estimate that 3,500 people with HIV will have unmet housing needs in the next five years, Mississippi provides no funds for housing for people living with HIV and AIDS.

"We survive by the grace of God but not much else," Sheila R. (a pseudonym), told Human Rights Watch about their daily struggle to meet basic needs.

HRW went after several of Mississippi's policies, including the lack of funding and services for people people with HIV/AIDS. Also mentioned was abstinence-only education:

Mississippi also clings to failed approaches to sex and HIV education, Human Rights Watch said. Mississippi has some of the nation's highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, sexually transmitted diseases that can significantly increase an individual's risk of becoming infected with HIV. Yet the state legislature has repeatedly refused to approve programs that provide complete, accurate information about HIV and pregnancy prevention, insisting on ineffective abstinence-only curricula in the public schools. The result, Human Rights Watch said, is the denial of potentially life-saving information to adolescents, putting them at unnecessary risk of HIV infection.

HRW also listed HIV nondisclosure prosecutions as a way that people with HIV/AIDS are stigmatized in that state.

That's not to beat down on Mississippi here. There are other states that have many of the same policies. And Mississippi-style health care seems to be the goal for the whole country if thing keep on going as they're going. Here's Mississippi's governor, who's also running for president:

"Massachusetts has a state health insurance program that they're happy with. And that's their right," Barbour said in a hearing on healthcare reform before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

"We don't want that. That's not good for us," Barbour added. "We don't want community rating. We don't want extremely high mandatory standard benefits packages."[...]

"Different states have different problems," Barbour said of his own philosophy. "We have different ideas."

Their goal isn't to make the problem better, it's to make it worse. HRW points out that Barbour isn't even applying for federal grant money for people with HIV/AIDS, so he can't even blame budgetary issues.

But no one can really blame the budget in the US. We have enough money that these people should be taken care of with a modicum of dignity and enough technology to know basic ways to prevent the spread of HIV. The problem is that we're not using the resources we currently have to try to solve the problem, not that there's a lack of resources.

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