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National News

Health Officials Urge HIV/AIDS Battle in American South

November 15, 2002

On Thursday, health officials from across the South urged state and federal legislators to take bolder action against HIV in the 16-state region that is home to nearly 40 percent of US AIDS cases. The three-day conference in Charlotte, N.C., drew health officials from 16 states from Delaware to Texas and such dignitaries as former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. The South is affected more severely by HIV/AIDS for a number of reasons, officials said, including racial and economic demographics and a cultural conservatism that interferes with attempts to fight the disease.

"It's not popular to talk about our differences and single out Southerners as not being able to talk about problems well or not being as accepting of different lifestyles and different sexual orientations," said Steven Cline, chief of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services communicable disease programs. "But we think that might be part of the puzzle in the South."

The officials released the "Southern States Manifesto," which they hope will push legislators to increase HIV/AIDS funding and approve new ways of providing outreach and treatment. "We need a lot more changes," Satcher said in a keynote address. "That's what this Southern States Manifesto is all about." The manifesto calls for increased HIV/AIDS funding, enforcement of laws requiring doctors to report HIV/AIDS cases, and more work with community groups.

These measures are necessary because:

  • More people have AIDS in the South than in any other US region, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • Higher rates of new HIV/AIDS cases are seen in the South than in other regions.
  • The South has higher rates of STDs. Seven of the 10 states with the highest chlamydia rates in 2000 were in the South, as were nine of the 10 states with the highest syphilis rates, and all of the top 10 gonorrhea states.
  • The face of HIV/AIDS in the South is largely minority, female, heterosexual and rural, sometimes disproportionately so. More than half of the people with AIDS in the South are African-American, though African-Americans make up only 20 percent of the South's population.

Back to other CDC news for November 15, 2002

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Adapted from:
Charlotte Observer
11.15.02; Mike Stobbe

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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