Final Project #4: Introduction to AIDS in Alaska

The Jerry Wayne Fletcher AIDS memorial quilt 


The Fletcher quilt panel helps us recognize that even remote places like Alaska deserve attention when it comes to HIV/AIDS. When one thinks of Aids the first places that come to one’s mind may be Baton Rouge, LA, Miami, FL or Jackson, MS. Those are considered one of the biggest Hiv/Aids diagnosed cities in the United States. As of now the number one leader in having the most diagnosed residents with these diseases is Baton Rouge Louisiana. “ Many of the infections there “are due to shared needles, since the city is the center of a massive opiate addiction issue”(Top 10 Cities With The Highest HIV Rates). Although these are important because they host the highest numbers in Ais/Hiv epidemics in the country, these diseases still happen in other states and cities. Even if their numbers do not match it does not mean that we have to pay any less attention to it. Just as much as Aids is a problem in Louisiana it is a problem in Alaska. Although many people forget about it and do not pay attention to its epidemics and numbers considering Aids, it still happens and people should be equally aware of the problem and its statistics.

It is not something one thinks of every day but Aids/Hiv also happens in remote places like Alaska. To this day there are about 657 people in Alaska that are currently living with Hiv. One asks why does Hiv happen? Especially in “remote” places like Alaska. Hiv, in the current years, has been so prevalent in Alaska, because of unprotected sex. A recent incident in 2011 in Fairbank, Alaska demonstrates the main reason as to why there was a huge disease outbreak. There was a reimmersion of the disease into the society and with studies, it showed that the leading agent of this came from having unprotected sex from online hookups. This is a large problem because it involves having unprotected sex with random, anonymous people. One does not know that person’s sexual past, and if they have something one is opening themselves up to get it as well. “The first generation of HIV/AIDS patients, whether men or women, often contracted the illness by sharing syringes, having sex with prostitutes or, for men who have sex with other men, at public bathhouses. Today’s generation of HIV-positive people overwhelmingly hooks up online(HIV Outbreak on Alaska Army Base Rattles Public Health Officials). When analyzing this situation is was shown that the people affected in these cases were first, connected to the military in some type of way, were gay or bisexual men, had negative Hiv testing before the incident, and at least four of the cases were men under twenty years old.

One knows that there is Aids/Hiv throughout Alaska but one truly does not know and or pay attention to the statistics. How many cases of Aids/Hiv are happening in Alaska? According to the CDC, “In 2015, an estimated 24 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in Alaska. Alaska ranked 44th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2015”(CDC Alaska state profiles). In Alaska, in 2015 the rate of syphilis was about 0.7 per 100,000 in 2011 and 1.1 per 100,000. Alaska currently ranks 49th out of 50 states when it comes to rates in Syphilis. Yet it is ranked first out of 50 states when it comes to infections regarding chlamydia (768.3 per 100,000 persons) and is also ranked out of 50 states 8th considering infections known as gonorrhea (151.1 per 100,000 persons). Reported cases of chlamydia in women (1083.5 cases per 100,000) have been found to be 2.2 times more than those of men (483.1 cases per 100,000).

It is known that Aids/Hiv is a problem in Alaska, yet since when has it been a problem? The beginning of Aids/Hiv in Alaska has been since January 1, 1982, which were reported to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. Out of all the cases reported about 1,157 were initially diagnosed in Alaska, and 523 of those were also found to have previously been diagnosed out-of-state yet at one point of their lives lived in Alaska. Aids/ Hiv has been a problem since 1982, and although there are still a variety of existing cases the rates and numbers have decreased to this day. From the years 1982-2010 there were a number of about 1,019 cases and from 2011-2015 and until today there are about 138 cases.

The talk about numbers and cases has been discussed but who it affects is what is really important. According to many studies and reported information done by Alaska AIDSVu, as of 2015, the people that are living with HIV, are 75.2% male and 24.8% female. It has also been found that the majority (1,126/1,680; 67%) of HIV reported cases in Alaska from the years 1982-2015, were in typically found in people that were aged between 25 to 44 years. When considering the race of the people who are found to be affected by Aids/Hiv it is shown by studies that there are 13.2% African Americans, 9.4% Hispanic/Latinos and about 44.7% Whites affected by the disease. When considering black males that are living with HIV it is 4.2 times more common than in White males. On the other hand, Black females are 12.7 times more than White females. Then when looking at another race such as Hispanic/Latino males living with HIV, it is 2.1 times more than White males. Lastly, Hispanic/Latina females are 2.7 times that of White females.

Alaska is a good example of remote places that need our attention. Studies show that the more attention the disease gets, the greater the decrease in Aids/Hiv cases. HIV Federal Funding/Programs, Federal HIV/AIDS Grant Funding, give a total funding of $3,162,764. Although Alaska’s cases are ranked in the ’40s out of 50 states it still deserves as much attention as the rest. The quilt and story of Jerry Wayne Fletcher is the simple reminder that Aids/ Hiv is a horrible disease that takes over the lives of typical people like Mr. Fletcher, a friend, skier and Alaskan.