Southern U.S. Not Receiving Adequate Federal Funding To Provide HIV/AIDS Prevention, Support, Report Says
The Southern U.S. is not receiving enough federal funding to provide adequate HIV prevention, treatment and support programs, according to a report scheduled to be released on Monday by the Southern AIDS Coalition, the Birmingham News reports.
An increasing number of new HIV cases in the South -- combined with "inadequate funding, resources and infrastructure" -- have "resulted in a catastrophic situation in our public health care systems in the South," the report says. The report added that public health workers should "act to correct funding and treatment disparities" to slow the spread of the virus in "isolated communities" in the region. Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama and a co-author of the report, said that HIV/AIDS is increasingly affecting remote areas of the South populated by blacks, who are at greatest risk of the disease. "The ruralness of the epidemic is what's becoming painfully clear," she said.
Although health officials for years knew that HIV was increasingly affecting the South, they believed the increase in new HIV cases was coming from large cities in Florida, according to Hiers. However, experts concentrated on the Deep South -- Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina -- and found HIV cases spreading in rural areas with large black populations with financial, health and social issues. "You don't think of the rural areas as driving the epidemic in the South, but that's clearly what's happening," Hiers said.
According to the report, the distribution of federal funding does not reflect the path of the HIV epidemic nationwide, with the South receiving less funding for treatment, education and support despite a higher number of new HIV cases and an increasing number of AIDS-related deaths. Total deaths from AIDS-related causes increased to 190,000 in the South in 2001 through 2005, while the number of such deaths decreased in the rest of the nation during that time period, the report says.
According to the News, much of the funding issue "revolves around funding formulas devised early in the HIV/AIDS epidemic." These initial funding formulas were based on cumulative AIDS cases as opposed to HIV cases, giving "an advantage to large metropolitan areas where the epidemic started," according to the News. Last year, authorities adjusted Ryan White Program funding formulas, and the changes have helped, the News reports. However, the South still ranks No. 1 nationwide in the number of new HIV cases but ranks last out of four regions nationwide in overall federal funding. The federal government distributes about $6,565 annually for each person living with AIDS in the South, compared with $6,963 per person in the North, which has a higher percentage of AIDS cases, the News reports. "We're driving the epidemic, but we're still getting the least money," Hiers said.
Gary Puckrein, president and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum, said that "one of the big misconceptions is it is big cities on the West Coast and East Coast that are really driving the disease," adding that the epidemic has "moved both in terms of geography and demography." Puckrein added, "It's really important for people in Southern states to know that because they're not getting their fair share of [federal] support."
Another report, released in May by Funders Concerned About AIDS, found that the South also receives less private funding to fight HIV/AIDS, the News reports. The report found that the South received only 19% of U.S. donations for HIV/AIDS in 2006 (Parks, Birmingham News, 7/20).