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HIV a growing concern in Detroit, with infection rate four times some counties

Posted: 6:55 PM, Apr 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-25 15:11:19Z

There’s a growing concern about HIV in Detroit. 

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services more than 11,000 people are living in metro Detroit with HIV and more than 40 percent of them are in Detroit. 

Community activist and mother of four Chunnika Hodges was diagnosed with HIV. 

"I was in a monogamous relationship for two years but didn't find out until after I was in another relationship. That just goes to show you how tricky HIV is,” Hodges says. 

Nearly 5,000 people live in Detroit with HIV. The state says Detroit’s rate is nearly four times higher than Ingham and Saginaw Counties.

Doctor Johnathan Cohn with Wayne State says there’s a growing problem with teens and young adults, especially in the African American community.

“They are more worried about the other STD’s and things like that, but HIV seems to be a taboo topic around sex and diagnosis,” Cohn says.

Cohn says many of those cases could have been prevented if people knew about Pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PREP. 

Prep is a pill that prevents you from getting HIV. 

"I just take the pill once a day. it's just like a multivitamin,” says Community Health Worker Christopher Woolfolk.

While it’s been around for years, Woolfolk who’s been on PREP before, says the word is still not getting out. 

"I think that there are attempts for visibility for the medication, but I think that people are so unaware of it that, if they just see the word PREP, they're not really associating it with anything else."

Patients have to see a doctor several times throughout the year, Cohn says sometimes that turns people away. 

MDHHS say some people experienced an upset stomach or loss of appetite, but it usually goes away within the first month. Some people also reported having a mild headache.  

It’s also been difficult getting doctors to talk about it with their patients. 

"Not everybody jumps at it. I think part of it is the technical training - having the technical knowledge,” Cohn explains. 

Protected sex is always the best option. 

The state is trying to change that by providing more education and training. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about sex. 

“Some parents do that, some parents avoid it, if you want your children to be safe it's better to talk about it than to avoid it."