AU Congressional Roundtables Examine Growing HIV/AIDS Crisis in U.S. South

Washington, D.C.  (June 19, 2012) – According to a recent estimate by the Centers for Disease Control, nearly half of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States are in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee--the same region that is leading the nation in persons living with, and dying from, AIDS. 

This morning, a new infographic was released by AIDS United to show how HIV/AIDS is ravaging the U.S. South and to bolster the organization’s urgent request to Southern lawmakers to direct more research and attention to the problem.

"When it comes to living with HIV/AIDS, where you live should not affect how well you live,” said AIDS United Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Ronald Johnson. “Making sure that people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS – especially those in the overburdened U.S. South - have access to crucial HIV prevention, care and treatment services should not be a partisan issue. The Members of Congress who join us today recognize this, and we ask for their help to increase awareness and spearhead research that will advance this important work.”

To that end, AIDS United today invited Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC), Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA), Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, along with other members of the Southern delegation, as well as experts in the field and private philanthropic organizations, to participate in a roundtable discussion in Washington, D.C. to spotlight the innovative work now happening within the
Southern U.S. to tackle the crisis.

"This disease is no longer a metropolitan problem," said Sen. Jeff Sessions. "In fact, infection rates in the rural South are among the fastest-growing in the country."

Currently, only 19% of Americans living with HIV/AIDS are receiving the sustained care they need to extend and improve the quality of their lives. But thanks to grants from AIDS United, now, over 70 innovative and community-based organizations in the Southern U.S. are breaking down barriers to care and addressing the epidemic.

"Make no mistake — HIV/AIDS is devastating communities of color, women and young gay and bisexual men in the U.S., especially in the South," said Rep. Hank Johnson.

As noted in the morning’s event, and detailed in the new infographic:

  • There is an increasingly disproportionate effect of HIV/AIDS in U.S. Southern states: 7 out of 10 states with the highest HIV/AIDS death rates are in the South. This is attributed to social determinants of health such as poverty levels, lack of adequate health insurance, limited access to HIV care providers and social stigma.
  • There is severe lack of care for those suffering with HIV/AIDS in the South: According to the American Academy of HIV Medicine, there are just 240 credentialed HIV Specialists™ and they are unevenly distributed throughout the region.

The infographic is available for download here