ATLANTA, GA – According to the CDC, Georgia has the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses among adults and adolescents in the United States, with 31.8 new diagnosis per 100,000 residents. The spread of HIV in Georgia is a public health crisis that requires a swift response from Georgia’s leadership.
Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate and Former House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams is the only candidate with plans to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare in Georgia so that those living with HIV can get access to the care and resources they need.
Leader Abrams released the following statement addressing Georgia’s HIV diagnosis rate:
“Georgia’s response to public health crises is woefully inadequate right now,” said Leader Abrams. “As governor, I will expand Medicaid in our state so that Georgians living with HIV can obtain quality, affordable healthcare. This will allow Georgians to get tested sooner and have access to the preventative measures they need and will expand access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for those struggling with opioid addiction. We must treat the HIV epidemic in Georgia as the crisis that it is.”
Georgia’s HIV crisis disparately impacts Black residents and gay men. In addition, the ongoing opioid epidemic in Georgia also leads to new HIV diagnoses. Stacey Abrams understands that in order to address this crisis impacting our state, Georgians must have access to quality health care. And unlike her opponent, Abrams will protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions like HIV. Abrams’ comprehensive Hea
Background on Medicaid Expansion
Over 30 states, led by governors across the political spectrum, have taken the only justifiable approach to health care and expanded Medicaid already. But not Georgia. Our Republican state leaders refuse to act, needlessly turning down federal dollars while Georgia sends money to Washington and to other states that have accepted the program. Refusing to expand Medicaid is an irresponsible act that denies coverage for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Georgians who need health coverage, damaging our health infrastructure and our rural health system to its core.
Stacey Abrams led the fight to expand Medicaid in the legislature and will make it a top focus as governor. Medicaid expansion will draw $3 billion annually ($8 million per day) into our state to pay for doctors, nurses, and hospitals. It will create more than 50,000 jobs—60% of which will be outside of Metro Atlanta. It will help local economies, reduce uncompensated care that drives up costs for all Georgians, benefit employers with healthier workers, and save rural hospitals from closure. And that only scratches the surface of the benefits of Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion works in other states and will work in Georgia.
More than 200 studies find that Medicaid expansion creates:
- Lower rates of uninsured citizens.
- Major employment gains (e.g. 31,000 jobs in Colorado; 40,000 jobs in Kentucky).
- Coverage gains for young adults, veterans, parents, people with HIV, and low-wage workers.
- Drastic help for rural areas. Uninsured rates in rural areas of expansion states drop faster than uninsured rates in all other areas, expansion and non-expansion states alike.
- Consistent care for chronic conditions.
- Greater access to mental health treatment.
- Increased access to medications for opioid use disorder and overdose.
- Improved quality of care in community health centers.
- Greater affordability and financial security among low-income households.
Background on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment
Mental health care access and substance abuse treatment are increasingly critical components of health care that are too often overlooked and underfunded. Georgia ranks as the 8th worst state for access to mental health care. We are in the bottom five states for number of mental health providers per capita. Almost half of Georgia counties lacked a licensed psychologist and nearly a third of our counties lacked a licensed social worker in 2015.
As Governor, Abrams will:
- Work with the mental health community to increase understanding and reduce stigma regarding mental health disabilities. We will make sure Georgians know that mental health has no zip code, and there is no shame in mental illness.
- Increase access to treatment through Medicaid expansion and support a more integrated vision of mental health services with primary-care health systems.
- Support the Recovery Orientated Care approaches already underway in Georgia’s behavioral health community. These approaches move our focus from crisis to prevention and recognize the importance of community and hope.
- Support peer-to-peer support systems for adults, youth, and families and encourage public-private partnerships to provide innovations and improvements in mental health services.
- Encourage tele-health and other innovations to better meet needs for services across the state.
- Focus on treatment—not imprisonment. Our criminal justice platform calls for more accountability courts, better re-entry services, and community policing that can include CIT training for law enforcement.
- Focus on the whole child to include mental health. We must follow up on our initial steps in addressing mental health for children to ensure a complete system. Where a teacher or counselor identifies a child with a mental health need, they will have a place to refer the child.
- Support more training opportunities throughout our systems – law enforcement, teachers and counselors, nurses, mental health professionals, pediatricians – and expand incentives for practitioners to locate throughout the state.