December 5, 2002
In the South, more than 130,000 people have AIDS, compared to just over 100,000 in the Northeast, 36,000 in the Midwest and nearly 62,000 in the West, according to CDC figures cited in the "Southern States Manifesto," written by AIDS directors from various states. The manifesto, produced on Nov. 4, was studied during the two-day Southern AIDS Conference aimed at developing a strong lobbying effort at local, state and federal levels for fair funding of HIV/AIDS efforts in the South. Alabama, Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia were represented.
Florida AIDS Action Executive Director Dr. A. Gene Copello said Florida receives roughly 5 percent of the nation's prevention funds, but has approximately 12 percent of US AIDS cases. "We intend to be very loud about it and very forceful, because our people are dying all over the South," Copello said at a news conference. The southern states, he said, are in the process of organizing a two-fold approach: pushing for fair funding for the region, and for a core set of services for anyone with HIV/AIDS.
A network of groups is being set up to lobby lawmakers on the state and federal levels. The manifesto will be sent to members of Congress as well as members of state legislatures, said David C. Harvey of the AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families. "This conference represents an increasing awareness that this is an epidemic that's out of control in the South," Harvey said.