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
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
- 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
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