Chicago Tribune Examines Increasing Impact of HIV/AIDS in Rural Southern Communities
The Chicago Tribune on Monday examined the growing number of HIV/AIDS cases in rural Southern communities against a backdrop of limited resources, inadequate HIV/AIDS education efforts, tightening state budgets, and HIV/AIDS-associated stigma and discrimination. According to the Southern AIDS Coalition, about half of the 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the U.S. live in the South, where communities have "too few doctors, staggering poverty and a history of inadequate AIDS education programs," the Tribune reports.
Midwestern and Southern states receive the lowest amount of federal funding from CDC for public health programs, including HIV/AIDS efforts, according to a Trust for America's Health study. CDC reports that urban areas, particularly in the Northeast, continue to be most affected by AIDS, with 16.4 AIDS cases per 100,000 people in 2007, compared with 15.1 cases per 100,000 people in the South. However, the South has the greatest number of people living with AIDS and accounted for 46.4% of new cases in 2007, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of CDC data. President Obama's administration announced last week it will spend $45 million over five years on HIV/AIDS prevention and education through a TV and radio advertising campaign, transit signs and other efforts, the Tribune reports
Although changes to the distribution process for Ryan White Program funding in 2006 brought more funding to the South, health workers "still are catching up from years of underfunding and are struggling to provide the level of medical and support services to their primarily low-income patients as those in other regions receive," the Tribune reports. In addition, many HIV/AIDS patients in the South lack adequate housing, transportation and access to medication, the Tribune reports. "Some states have significantly less money to engage in disease prevention," Jeff Levi, executive director of TAH, said, adding that states will "have to make up the difference, which is hard to do in these economic times or there will be harsh outcomes." Michelle Ogle, director of the Northern Outreach Clinic in Henderson, N.C., said providing for low-income patients has become more difficult because the economic downturn has forced many uninsured patients to put medical needs on hold. Ogle said, "We are not just fighting HIV, we are fighting a culture," adding that many women in the South are "victims of poor education, low self-esteem" and do not "feel empowered" or "feel comfortable insisting that men use condoms" (Glanton, Chicago Tribune, 4/13).