Mississippi Health Department to end free HIV testing amid epidemic

Beginning July 1, the Mississippi Department of Health will charge $25 for all sexually transmitted disease screenings, HIV tests and lab work at its clinics statewide. The tests were previously free, according to a report from The Clarion-Ledger.

Kenyon Farrow, the U.S. and global health policy director for the HIV/AIDS activist organization the Treatment Action Group, told The Clarion-Ledger the price increase is likely a result of the state's legislative budget cuts and not the health department's fault. However, the change will likely have an adverse impact on Mississippi residents, he added. In 2015, 509 Mississippians were diagnosed with HIV, according to the report.

"I understand the constraints that the health department is under, but there is no way, at this point, to talk about the epidemic in Mississippi as anything but a real crisis that continues to linger in the background," Mr. Farrow told The Clarion-Ledger. "Certainly in a state with as much poverty as Mississippi, charging people $25, which is a lot of money to a lot of people, will be utterly devastating to doing any kind of work to curb new infections, particularly for poor black people. There's just no doubt about it."

Mr. Farrow said the situation could have been avoided if the state had expanded Medicaid under the ACA.

To read the full report in The Clarion-Ledger, click here.

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