Coalition Urges AIDS Awareness; Group Chairwoman Speaks at STD/HIV Conference
October 27, 2006
Speaking at the three-day South Carolina HIV/AIDS Conference in Myrtle Beach, Kathie Hiers, co-chairperson of the Southern AIDS Coalition, said several Southern members of Congress have worked to increase federal HIV/AIDS funds for the region.
"I'm extremely pleased at the level of understanding these guys have achieved," Hiers said. "Five years ago, when we were trying to get the Ryan White Care Act reauthorized, they did not understand the HIV epidemic. There were even some Southern [lawmakers] who asked us why government should pay for medication when the disease was brought on by [people's] behavior."
The coalition comprises health department STD/HIV directors from 14 states and the District of Columbia, and community leaders. Its goal is to bring attention to the growing problem of HIV in the South and to increase funding for HIV/AIDS programs.
"We have unique issues that we face that are not the same as other parts of the country," said Lynda Kettinger, director of the STD/HIV division of South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control. Southern states have greater rural, poor, and minority populations, and poorer health care infrastructures. Such factors contribute to higher STD and HIV rates and pose challenges to prevention and care programs.
South Carolina has nearly 14,000 HIV/AIDS patients. The state reported 759 new AIDS cases in 2004. African Americans, who make up about 30 percent of the state's population, account for 74 percent of recently diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases.
The State (Columbia, S.C.)
10.26.2006; Czerne M. Reid