Via USA Today: Many AIDS cases, few HIV specialists in South. Excerpt:
ATLANTA – The South has emerged as ground zero in the HIV/AIDS crisis in the USA.
Roughly half of all new AIDS diagnoses are occurring in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to federal estimates. Overlying that dismal reality is another: There's a severe shortage of HIV specialists in the South, which exacerbates access to treatment for people living with the disease in the region, according to one of the nation's leading AIDS advocacy organizations.
AIDS United, a Washington-based group that provides grants to community organizations, is starting a push to control AIDS in the South. The group seeks to spread awareness of the problem and highlight ways of providing access to care in a congressional roundtable Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
"This disease is no longer a metropolitan problem," says Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a host of the roundtable. "In fact, infection rates in the rural South are among the fastest-growing in the country."
There are much higher concentrations of HIV specialists in traditional "epicenters" of the HIV epidemic — 411 in California; 275 in New York state — compared with 243 in the nine Southeast states, says Bruce Packett, deputy executive director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine. This concentration of expert care "just isn't rationally representative of HIV incidences by state," he says.
Sessions and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., are co-hosting the Senate session. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., and Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., are the House sponsors.
"Make no mistake — HIV/AIDS is devastating communities of color, women and young gay and bisexual men in the U.S., especially in the South," Johnson says.