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U.S. News

HIV Entrenched in U.S. South's Poorest Counties

July 11, 2011

Though HIV is still viewed by some as a gay and urban problem, a new county-level map of infection data shows the vast inroads AIDS has made in America's heartland, particularly the South.

County data presented in map form by researchers at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, along with an analysis by USA Today, find the Southern counties with the greatest HIV infection rates are some of the nation's poorest. On average, one in seven people in US counties with the highest infection rates live in poverty. In the South, that figure jumps to one in five.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of HIV/AIDS prevention at CDC, confirms the link between HIV and poverty. "People with household incomes of less than $10,000 a year were 10 times more likely to have HIV than people whose household incomes are greater than $50,000," he said.

Rolling Fork, Miss., is typical. The tiny farming community's HIV infection rate, 249 cases for every 100,000 people, is comparable to that of New York or San Francisco. Roughly 35 percent of county residents live under the federal poverty limit. Unemployment in Rolling Fork stands at about 10 percent. Most residents are black.

Rolling Fork Mayor James Denson said he was unaware that the community's HIV rate is so high. But Michael Baker, one of three doctors in the community, was not surprised. "That may just be the tip of the iceberg, unfortunately," Baker said.

Jackson, Miss., AIDS activist Cedric Sturdevant said homophobia plays a key role. "You don't want people to know you're homosexual, if that's the case. If you're heterosexual and you get infected, you don't want people to put you in the category of being homosexual," he noted. "People don't want to get into care because they're afraid their families will find out" and reject them.

Back to other news for July 2011

Adapted from:
USA Today
07.11.2011; Steve Sternberg; Jack Gillum

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
More HIV Statistics on Southern U.S. States

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