Metro Atlanta has one of the highest HIV rates in the world | What can be done to prevent the spread

Health officials say they are continuing to work to decrease the numbers of new HIV cases in the state and locally across metro Atlanta.

This comes as leaders report higher numbers since COVID.

Reports show Atlanta has one of the highest HIV rates in the world.

"What I’m trying to promote is sexual health and wellness," Joshua O'Neal, from the Fulton County Health Department, said.

It may be an uncomfortable conversation for many, but it's a conversation O'Neal says is necessary.

"HIV rates are increasing in terms of diagnosis as of 2021. In Fulton County alone, we had over 500. I believe it was 520-something," O'Neal said.

According to research, metro Atlanta ranks in the top five cities with the highest numbers.

O'Neal says testing and resources were impacted during COVID years which delayed many people testing and being diagnosed. 

Health officials also work on preventative measures like providing PrEP, which is a daily pill that can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

"In Fulton County, we have about 4,000 and 5,000 people on PrEP in the county, which is major, but it's not enough. We need to expand the access points that we have. We need to get more providers knowledge around PrEP, and to get them more comfortable providing PrEP with the clients that they serve," O'Neal said. 

There's no question that HIV disproportionately impacts certain demographics in Fulton County.

Statistics show that 85% of cases are men, with 15% women.

Those numbers also show that 72% are Black, about 7% are Latinx, and 15% are white.

According to statistics, the rate of Black males living with an HIV diagnosis is nearly six times that of white males.

The rate of Black females is 16.1 times that of white females.

"When you look at the population as a whole and racial disparities, there's no racial justice in HIV, and I think it's important to focus on Black and brown people," O'Neal said. 

O'Neal says knowledge and access to resources are key to fighting these numbers.

"Testing is everything. I think it's important for people to know their status and get treatment accordingly," O'Neal said. 

There are major pride events happening this weekend in Atlanta, and there will be testing available.