Thursday, November 08, 2012

Keep The Promise March On The South

This past weekend Carlos and I took part in the Keep The Promise March on HIV/AIDS in Atlanta. Why Atlanta, you may ask? Is it because the ATL has a thriving gay community, many of whom could be at risk for HIV/AIDS?

Kind of, but then again.

The good news is that HIV/AIDS infection rates are falling all across the United States, but they are, in fact, rising rather dramatically in the southern US. And while deaths from AIDS complications either fell or held steady in other parts of the country from 2001 to 2006--the last year complete figures were available--they rose by more than 10% in the South.

An update to a 2002 report that identified the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS in the South--defined as Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.--found that:
  • Although those Southern states are home to only 36% of the nation’s population, some 50% of all US AIDS deaths in 2005 were in the South, and more than half of all Americans with HIV lived in the region in 2006.
  • Nine of the 15 states with the highest HIV diagnosis rates are in the South.
  • More than 40% of all new infections are in the South.
  • Of the 20 metropolitan areas with the highest rates of AIDS cases in 2006, 16 were in the South.
  • African-American women are 83% of all [new] cases in the South, and the new epidemic is young people between 22 and 24.
AIDS specialists cite some of the reasons for the rise in new HIV/AIDS cases:
  • Unequal government funding of anti-AIDS programs; for years a majority of the funding has gone to major metropolitan areas, and now that those areas are seeing a decline in new HIV/AIDS cases, the funding hasn't shifted to areas in need.
  • Economics; the South is home to a great many low income people who cannot afford testing or treatment
  •  Cultural; many parents in the South are in denial that their children are having sex;  religion also plays a part, in the notion that "good Christians" do not have sex outside, or before, marriage, and many churches refuse to even acknowledge the issue exists
  • Transportation issues; many Southerners live in very rural areas without direct access to hospitals or medical facilities
  • Translation; there is an increase of Hispanics in the South, and the language barrier makes education and treatment difficult., lack of access to proper health care
  • Education plays a particularly important role in fighting HIV in rural communities where there is a strong “It can’t happen to me" factor.
  • And even though the numbers show that HIV/AIDS numbers are on the rise in the South, there has been no increase in funding for the Southern states.
There is a call for more “age-appropriate, science-driven education for prevention of all sexually transmitted diseases,” along with increased federal funding for “prevention, treatment and care."

Fear seems to be the most prevalent reason for the spread of HIV/AIDS from what Carlos has found as an HIV outreach Counselor. People live in fear that they may have "it" so they refuse to get tested. The stigma of being HIV+ is huge in rural communities, religious communities, the Black community, making it hard for people to want to get tested or to seek treatment.

All in all, this crisis, which seems to be abating in other parts of the country, in on the rise in the South, and people here could die because they are afraid of a simple test. There is treatment, there is care, and there is prevention, but we need education and we need funding.

Keep the Promise.



the dogs' mother said...

xoxoxo to Carlos for doing the work needed.

Anonymous said...

Tell Carlos thanks for doing his work on this.

I would not be shocked if religion played a role in this. Denial is not an antidote for reality.

Wonder Man said...

Thanks for this info

Kyle Leach said...

Bob, you never fail to show how much you and Carlos care about others and try to move them forward toward their own empowerment. Great piece. :)