Southern United States Become Hotbed for HIV

HIV bloodAmericans usually stereotype a HIV-positive person as a young male homosexual living in California’s Bay Area. However, latest research reveal that many new HIV cases nationwide are found in the South.

The new study says that 50 percent of newly-diagnosed HIV patients are living in the southern states such as Alabama, where about 10,000 HIV-positive people are currently living; and Georgia, with over 5,000 patients. And while large cities have larger infection numbers, the epidemic is more alarming over at the rural areas where research says is more likely to progress to AIDS leading to more cases of death caused by the complications of this syndrome.

"A lot of that has to do with education about the virus, not having a lost of information on hand," says Marilyn Swyers, manager of AIDS Outreach at East Alabama Medical Center. "That lack of education has to do with the lack of funding." AIDS Outreach is responsible for bringing Community HIV Prevention Education to schools, health fairs, and other venues in five of Alabama’s counties. Its clinic also provides HIV testing and many support services for HIV and AIDS patients.

She added that many people do not realize the rate the which HIV cases are growing in the rural South, thinking that it is only a major problem among gay white men in big cities. "The epidemic’s face has changed," Swyers said. "Twenty-seven years later, it is disproportionately affecting the African-American and Latino populations." Blacks make up only 26 percent of Alabama’s population, but represent 63 percent of HIV infections.

Educating the people about HIV/ AIDS is also complicated in the Southern states, Swyer says, especially that talking about HIV prevention has to do with discussions about sex. "It’s just not easy to do in the Bible Belt," she says.

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