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Commentary & Opinion

"Sexual Silence" Contributes to Spread of HIV in Southern United States, Opinion Piece Says

July 25, 2003

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

"The South's inclination to avoid speaking about uncomfortable subjects" has helped make the Southern United States the new HIV/AIDS "epicenter" by encouraging "sexual silence," Michael Alvear, a syndicated sex advice columnist, writes in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion piece. The South has the highest concentration of the two groups most likely to be infected with HIV -- African Americans and low-income individuals -- and silence surrounding sex has "amplifie[d]" these demographic factors, Alvear says (Alvear, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/25). According to CDC figures cited in the "Southern States Manifesto," written by HIV/AIDS directors from various states and presented at a two-day conference in Tampa, Fla., in December 2002, more than 130,000 people in the South have AIDS, compared with about 100,000 people in the Northeast, 36,000 in the Midwest and 62,000 in the West. In addition, the officials said that the South has a bigger HIV/AIDS problem than elsewhere in the United States because of its racial and economic demographics and "a cultural conservatism that interferes with attempts to arrest the disease" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/14). One of the most effective ways to prevent HIV transmission is for sexual partners to be aware of each others' HIV status and "the only way to know is ask," according to Alvear. However, many Southerners would consider such a question "too rude for words," Alvear says, adding, "There's a tradition here -- if you can't be kind, be vague. Problem is, you can't be vague with a plague." Alvear concludes, "The South, ever mindful of its manners, is killing itself with its own kindness" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 7/25).

Back to other news for July 25, 2003


Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2003 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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