November 16, 2009
Southern states are hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic and short-changed in federal funds to address the crisis, say area activists.
They want to get their message across on Monday to Jeffrey S. Crowley, director of the White House's Office of National AIDS Policy, during a Jackson, Miss., discussion on national AIDS priorities.
"We're already disproportionately impacted by poverty and high rates of unemployment. It's important for people who are HIV-positive to be provided with life-sustaining drugs," said Sigga Jagne, a program manager for the Kentucky Department of Health.
While the South's $6,566 in per capita annual federal funding for someone with HIV ranks last among regions, the region leads the nation in the percentage of AIDS-related deaths, according to the Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC). CDC reports that 46 percent of new AIDS cases in 2007 were reported in the South.
"Why is it that the South is not getting its fair share of federal money based on the epidemic?" asked SAC Executive Director Patrick Packer.
Crowley's agenda at Monday's community discussion is expected to focus on the prevalence of HIV in the South and the disproportionate effect of the disease on minorities.
An extension of the $2.2 billion Ryan White HIV/AIDS legislation signed last month will move the South to second place behind the Northeast in federal funding. Nevertheless, health officials in the South say inequities persist and the funding is inadequate to the task.
Kentucky, for example, has cut virtually all of the $250,000 it once spent for AIDS medications. Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas all have waiting lists for their AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, which are primarily funded with federal dollars.