AIDS Flourishes Where Ignorance Prevails

The southern states of the US are a hot spot for acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS. Nearly 50% of all new cases of this awful disease are arising in just nine states in the south; Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

What is worse for the AIDS sufferers in these areas, is that there is an acute shortage of experts in the field of human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, the precursor disease to AIDS.

‘AIDS United’ is an organization out of Washington spearheading the drive to regain control of AIDS in the southern states.

A senator for Alabama says; “This disease is no longer a metropolitan problem, in fact. Infection rates in the rural South are among the fastest-growing in the country.”

There are many more people with HIV expertise in the previous pockets of the HIV epidemic. Most in California, 400+; New York state has nearly 300 compared to only 243 in the 9 disease ravaged states. There is a catastrophic mismatch of resources to infection areas.

As one senator puts it “It is clear that HIV-AIDS is devastating whole communities of color, females and young gay and bisexual men in America, but especially in the south.” 

A Washington roundtable event on Tuesday heard from AIDS activists, AIDS sufferers and care providers who shared information and methods of dismantling the barriers to medical help that exist in these areas. One such initiative is putting low income rural communities, that do not have access to HIV expertise, in contact with disease specialist doctors and a health program via a video conference facility.

‘Montgomery AIDS Outreach’ is an association with over 1200 volunteer helper patients active in 26 counties in south-central Alabama. An expert based in Montgomery advises and consults by video with sufferers and nurses at a community base in Selma around fifty miles away. It’s not a ‘hands on’ medical examination, but it is a real-time one to one, albeit electronic, consultation.

The most-recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 1.2 million Americans living with the HIV disease and 20 percent of them may well be unaware that they have the condition. All of the factors that are creating the imbalance in the spread of AIDS, and HIV are cultural and social.

Greater levels of poverty and poor education among minorities in the southern states are undoubtedly a big factor. So too is racism a big driver of the problem in getting fair treatment. While cultural conservatism is a great obstacle to improvements in the public health arena. There remains a sexist and racist stigma attached to HIV and a popular rejection if not revulsion towards drug users. Rural areas are by their very geography hard to reach in terms of education, prevention and treatment. But AIDS is spreading from the cities to the southern small towns, and the flames are being fanned by old ignorance and prejudices.

Claire Al-Aufi

Claire Al-Aufi is a contributing author for Hive Health Media who provides updates on health and fitness news.

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