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Infographic: Where HIV cases are most prevalent

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Researchers have launched AIDSVu, an interactive online map that shows the distribution of people living with HIV in the United States.

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In sheer numbers, the AIDS epidemic is one of the most devastating health crisis to hit the United States in recent years. There are currently about one million people are living with the disease.

And since HIV and AIDS is spread primarily through sexual contact, its difficult to determine specially where in the U.S. are cases most prevalent. This is perhaps what makes the disease, in every sense of the word, a silent killer.

Now, researchers at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University hope to change that with the launch of AIDSVu, an interactive online map which provides the most detailed publicly available view of the number of people living with HIV in the United States by state and county.

The data is invaluable in that it allows users and health care agencies to pinpoint regions of the country where HIV prevalence rates are the highest, and where the needs for prevention, testing and treatment services are the most urgent.

“The high-resolution maps on AIDSVu let us see the parts of the country most impacted by HIV – and the places where we need to focus HIV prevention resources,” said Emory University's Dr. Patrick Sullivan, the principal researcher on the project. “Knowing the areas most affected by HIV is critical for meeting the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which calls for significantly reducing new HIV infections and improving care for people living with HIV.”

The online tool, which is continually refreshed with new data, also links state and county-level HIV prevalence data with local HIV testing sites, information about state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs and estimates of the percentage of HIV diagnoses that are made while the person is in the late stages of the disease.

To generate the map, researchers obtained state and county-level data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and decompiled it visually using computer software.

Here's a brief overview and some notable findings as revealed by the map:

  • The data on AIDSVu maps can be viewed by race/ethnicity at both the state and county levels. The areas with the most cases of people diagnosed with AIDS are represented in dark red while lighter colors highlight the regions with proportionately fewer cases.
  • HIV disproportionately affects black and Hispanic Americans, and that these disparities exist in both major metropolitan areas and rural areas.
  • The HIV epidemic in the United States varies considerably by geography. Some of the most heavily impacted areas include the Northeast and the South.
  • The state-level information on the estimated number of people with HIV who are diagnosed late shows a need for more availability of HIV testing. An estimated one-third of HIV diagnoses in America are made late, when treatment may be less effective and people are at greater risk of unknowingly infecting others.

To learn more, visit http://www.aidsvu.org/

Image: AIDSVu and the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure