Southern State AIDS and STD Directors Work Group Releases Call to Action
HIV/AIDS is "drastically and quickly" spreading across the southern United States, an area that is already is dealing with a "dire shortage" of resources to address the disease, according to a report released yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Seabrook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/25). The Southern State AIDS and STD Directors Work Group yesterday released the final version of the Southern States Manifesto, titled "HIV/AIDS and STDs in the South: A Call to Action," according to a Southern AIDS Coalition release (SAC release, 4/24). The report was written by state- and community-based HIV/AIDS and STD groups in the District of Columbia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia in response to a continued rise in new HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease cases in the region. The manifesto outlines barriers to providing and obtaining HIV/AIDS prevention and care services in southern states, many of which have poor health care infrastructures, large populations living in relative poverty and large numbers of uninsured individuals. The manifesto calls on federal, state and local governments to "recognize the disparate impact of HIV and STDs in the South" (Foust/Scalo, Southern State AIDS Directors Work Group letter, 4/24). A preliminary version of the report was released in December 2002 at the Southern HIV/AIDS Conference, which addressed the lack of access to services, increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS stigma and chronic shortages of drugs in treatment programs experienced by AIDS and STD organizations in the South. According to CDC figures cited in the manifesto, more than 130,000 people in the South have AIDS, compared to about 100,000 in the Northeast, 36,000 in the Midwest and 62,000 in the West. In addition, despite higher numbers of AIDS cases, the region is behind other areas of the nation in federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 12/5/2002). Dr. Gene Copello, co-chair of the Southern AIDS Coalition, a recently formed advocacy group comprised of health officials from 14 states and Washington, D.C., including Southern AIDS and STD Directors, said, "The AIDS epidemic is out of control in the South. In essence we're declaring a state of emergency. ... Unless some crucial steps are taken, the epidemic will get worse. We plan to be very loud and forceful about this" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 4/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.