Southern States’ Health Officials Urge More Legislative Action to Fight AIDS in Region
Southern U.S. health officials yesterday in Charlotte, N.C., at the three-day Southern States Summit on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases urged state and federal lawmakers to "speak louder" and to "take bolder action" to fight HIV/AIDS in the 16-state region, which is home to nearly 40% of U.S. residents with AIDS, the Charlotte Observer reports. The region stretches from Delaware to Texas. The officials, who have released a "Southern States Manifesto" outlining the steps needed to improve HIV/AIDS programs, added that the South has a bigger HIV/AIDS problem than elsewhere in the United States because of its racial and economic demographics and "a cultural conservatism that interferes with attempts to arrest the disease," the Observer reports. Steven Cline, chief of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' communicable diseases program, added that "part of the puzzle" in the Southern United States was that "[i]t's not popular to ... single out Southerners as not being able to talk about problems well or not being as accepting of different lifestyles and different sexual orientations." Former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, who delivered yesterday's keynote address, added that the Southern states need to make "a lot more changes" in HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment, as indicated in the manifesto. Officials mentioned the need for increased funding for HIV/AIDS programs, better sex education programs and condom distribution but also highlighted the South's need for improved access to health care and antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive residents (Stobbe, Charlotte Observer, 11/15).
NPR's "Morning Edition" today reported on the conference and on HIV/AIDS in the South. Many HIV-positive residents of Southern states "came from somewhere else," often returning home from other U.S. urban areas "to be sick, to be with their families, and in some case, to in fact die." Because of "wide eligibility criteria" and "different levels of service" for Medicaid and AIDS Drug Assistance Programs in each state, some HIV-positive people who receive assistance accessing HIV/AIDS medications and treatment in one area lose access to treatment when they move to the South. According to some AIDS directors in Southern states, "fear of stigma coupled with a history of discrimination" and a "chronic lack of resources" complicates efforts to fight the disease in the region (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 11/15). The full segment will be available in RealPlayer Audio online after noon ET.