HIV | St. Louis Public Radio


In recent years, state officials say the number of people diagnosed with HIV in Missouri jumped by more than 10 percent between 2013 and 2016.

The number of new HIV cases in Missouri is on the rise — and a disproportionately large number are in rural counties.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified Missouri as one of seven states with a “substantial rural burden” — noting that it has more than 75 cases and 10 percent or more of diagnoses in rural areas. Public health researchers say the concentration of cases likely is due to several factors, including lack of access to health care.

Dr. Rupa Patel (left) and Jesse Milan discussed the past, present and future of HIV/AIDS in St. Louis and beyond on Tuesday's St. Louis on the Air.
St. Louis Public Radio & AIDS United

Every year on Dec. 1, the international community mourns those who have been lost to HIV/AIDS and celebrates the ongoing progress in treating, preventing and researching the disease.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, president and CEO of AIDS United Jesse Milan told host Don Marsh that the day of commemoration is “an opportunity to remind people that this is still an epidemic nationally and globally.”

Pastor Gwenndolyn Lee of Spirit of Love Church wants to change the negative stigma surrounding HIV in the black community. Her younger brother died from AIDS nearly 14 years ago.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 50 percent of HIV cases in the St. Louis region are in the African-American community. That’s according to a 2016 report from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. But the stigma surrounding the virus in the black community makes it a challenge to address.

Local organizations like Faith Communities United have been working to break the stigma down by partnering with several faith communities throughout the region, including Spirit of Love Church in St. Louis, lead by Pastor Gwenndolyn Lee. For Lee, the fear of discussing HIV in the black community, and especially in the black church, is a personal one.

Documentary filmmaker Carl Gierstorfer and science journalist Jon Cohen talk about their work on HIV, AIDS and Ebola.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, producer Alex Heuer talked with science journalist Jon Cohen, a staff writer for Science Magazine, and documentary filmmaker Carl Gierstorfer about their work on HIV, AIDS and Ebola.

Both have received support from the Pulitzer Center for their reporting projects. Their work takes a look at the causes of diseases, the factors that allow them to spread and the stories of those impacted.

When Ronson Rowley was a teen, he said he used to sneak into a nightclub called the Ten Bar. “It was the only black gay club here in Indianapolis,” he recalled. One night he ran into his uncle.

“He looked me dead in the face,” he recalled. “And [he] said what are you doing here? I said, the same thing you’re doing here.”

Montrelle Day of the East St. Louis health outreach organization WPT talks with othet attendees at the St. Louis forum on Aug. 20, 2016.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

The fight to reduce the disproportionate rate of HIV infections among young black men can come down to two solutions: reducing stigma and improving sex education. Those were the issues discussed at a forum in St. Louis over the weekend.

A 2014 documentary called “deepsouth” sparked a lot of the conversation among the public health care providers and HIV advocates who attended the forum.

Fruit and vegetables
U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr |

In the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, a group of friends in St. Louis started cooking meals in the kitchen of a church. These meals were distributed to seven people they knew who were living with the disease.

That small group of friends quickly grew into a non-profit organization called Food Outreach.  

Today, 28 years after it was founded, Food Outreach provides nutritional counseling and meals to low-income individuals with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

The Cooper House, which is operated by Doorways, has 36 private rooms that serve as emergency housing for people with HIV.

St. Louis agencies that serve people living with HIV have seen a sharp rise in requests for emergency housing.

More than 5,900 people were living with HIV in the city of St. Louis and six nearby Missouri counties at the end of 2015, according to the St. Louis Regional HIV Health Services Planning Council.

Those that need emergency housing turn to organizations like Doorways, a St. Louis-based housing agency for people living with HIV. In 2015, Doorways provided emergency housing for 276 people, up from 180 people the year before. In the first five months of 2016, coordinators placed an average of 23 people a month, which is on pace to match last year’s increase.

At least 5,638 people in the St. Louis region are living with HIV, according to 2013 numbers from the Missouri Department of Health. About 250 people were newly infected.  

Two out of three of those new cases affected African Americans.  

Harris-Stowe University is offering free HIV testing, education and entertainment on Saturday, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The St. Louis Department of Health reports the HIV rate was nearly five times higher in St. Louis’ black community than in the white community in 2012. Increasing HIV testing can reduce the rate of HIV infection. On Saturday, Turn Up for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will offer free HIV testing, health screenings and performances.

Missouri History Museum Hosts A Day Of HIV Testing

Dec 1, 2014
Performers at the Missouri History Museum's quest to set the record for most people tested for HIV in one venue
Alex Detrick | Missouri History Museum

On this Worlds AIDS Day, the Missouri History Museum is trying to break the world record for most people tested for HIV in one venue. Yet, Director of Community Partnerships Alex Detrick, 37, said she knows testing people is more important than setting records.

“If people can have a positive experience today and say, ‘You know what? It really wasn’t that hard, that scary, that intimidating.’ That would be exciting!” said Detrick.

Before sunrise on Monday morning Dec. 1, Art Hill in Forest Park will glow with a special message for World AIDS Day.

A group called AIDS on Art Hill plans to work all night setting out and lighting 13,000 candles in bags to spell out the word “AIDS.” Aaron Laxton came up with the idea. He said the effort is designed to draw attention to a disease for which there is still no cure.

“It will be a huge spectacle,” Laxton said.

Via Wikimedia Commons/Victor byckttor

New research out of Washington University has found that giving women free birth control does not increase risky sexual behavior.

The analysis included 7,751 St. Louis-area women between the ages of 14 and 45.

It was part of an even larger effort called the Contraceptive CHOICE Project, whose goal is to promote the use of long-term contraceptive methods like intrauterine devices (IUDs) or implants.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When South Africa's Pharmacy Council announced an expanded pharmacy training program in 2010, the news was well received in a country with a chronic need for pharmacy skills. Now St. Louis College of Pharmacy is supporting the training efforts in South Africa with a year-long partnership with Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

As St. Louis Public Radio has reported before, the region is a tough place for sexual health.

Ill. Renews Emphasis On Protecting Women From HIV

Mar 11, 2013
(via Flickr/Jennifer Boriss)

The Illinois Department of Public Health says when it comes to HIV awareness, sexually-active women and young girls are often overlooked.  The Department is putting a renewed emphasis on teaching women to protect themselves and how to get tested.

(Véronique LaCapra/St. Louis Public Radio)

More than a million Americans are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. About a quarter of them are women, and in St. Louis and throughout the country, African-American women are disproportionately affected.

An HIV diagnosis can lead not just to debilitating medical problems, but to social stigma and isolation. But as St. Louis Public Radio’s Véronique LaCapra reports, a photography project is giving some HIV-positive women a new way to look at their disease and its challenges.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 14, 2011 - In 1978, no one knew that an almost invariably fatal, sexually transmitted disease was on the horizon. Nevertheless, it was the year Duane Grandgenett and a team of Saint Louis University scientists would discover an enzyme, integrase, that would be the key to developing effective treatments for HIV and AIDS. The serendipitous finding after decades of work was the result, Grandgenett says, of simple, basic research.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 1, 2011 - Have you ever been rushing to catch MetroLink, only to be waylaid by a stranger asking if you would like to be part of a research study? If so, chances are excellent that the experience was a surprisingly pleasant encounter with part of a research team led by Linda Bauer Cottler, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 1, 2010 - Shortly after his HIV infection became full-blown AIDS, St. Louisan John Watts faced another life-threatening health crisis: a heart attack.

In 1997, the then-41-year-old department store designer began taking a new AIDS cocktail of antiretroviral drugs. Soon, his once-normal cholesterol level shot up to an alarmingly high 400 mg/dL. On the day of his 1998 heart attack, Watts clutched his chest in pain as he drove himself to the hospital where a cardiologist discovered major blockages requiring five bypass grafts, uncommon for a man of his age.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 30, 2009 - feels like a plane ticket, a passport, something that helps you get from here to there. The website, a reporting project on HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, features interviews, music, photos and poems.

Together, the story told is about living and dying with HIV/AIDS in Jamaica. "Most of my friends are dying -- the thing is, they know it, and the others are busy nursing the dying: God's cruel edits."

On Science: Continuing search for an AIDS vaccine

Sep 9, 2009

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 9, 2009 - AIDS was much in the news last week, as researchers reported progress in the decades-long search for a vaccine. While this was certainly reason for good cheer, the news reports were muted at best. This is a road we have been down before, and often.

I wrote my first ON SCIENCE column on AIDS in July 1997, and have returned to the subject nine times in the following 10 years to report advances of one sort or another in the on-going battle to defeat HIV.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, July 8, 2009 - Bob was diagnosed with HIV when he was in his mid-20s and in college. With the news of his diagnosis and a new set of expenses, he changed colleges and majors, eventually settling on psychology at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park. When school bills and the cost of basic living expenses became too much, he left school to work full time.

On Science: The war on AIDS is not going well

Aug 5, 2008
2008 beacon archive chart
George Johnson | Copyright Textwriter

This first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 5, 2008 - This week the world's AIDS researchers held the 17th Annual AIDS Conference in Mexico City. The news is not good.