HIV and the South
What is the Deep South?
The Deep South is a cultural and geographical subregion of the American South, differentiated from the “Old South” as being the post-colonial expansion of the southern states. The core states of the Deep South are: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina.
What is considered rural?
A geographical area located outside of towns and cities. Typically rural areas have a low population density and small settlements.
What is the Black Belt?
The Black Belt is a region of the southern United States. It is an area known for prairies and dark fertile soil, located in central Alabama and northeast Mississippi. As this is where cotton was developed, large portions of African-Americans reside here.
Who is affected in Southern Rural Areas?
Black youths (ages 13 to 24) accounted for 34% of all new HIV infections among African Americans. Among black men who have sex with men (MSM), this age group accounted for 45% of new infections.
Black women accounted for nearly two-thirds (64%) of new HIV infections among women.
The rate of new HIV infections was about 8 times higher for black/African Americans than for whites, and 3 times higher for Hispanics/Latinos.
In 2013, over one-third (37%) of Hispanic/Latinos diagnosed with HIV in the US lived in the Deep South.
Reasons for Disparities in the South vs. Urban Areas:
Poverty: A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 40 percent of those infected have an annual household income of $10,000 or less, and don’t have access to cars, others have no running water.
Stigma: None of the southern states with the highest rates of HIV infection require public schools to provide LGBT-inclusive information in their health classes.
Most Deep South states have abstinence-based sex education in public schools, which has shown to not be effective in preventing STI’s
Deep South States lack the sexual education requirements that would help educate the residents about HIV transmission
Not required to provide any medically accurate information about HIV
Lack of proper healthcare:
Since the Supreme Court ruled that states could choose whether to expand Medicaid, Alabama, like most of the Black Belt states, decided not to.
Cuts to Medicaid would disproportionately hit rural hospitals, which largely depend on funding from the program
States in the south have the least expansive Medicaid programs and the strictest eligibility requirements to quality for assistance, which prevents people living with HIV/AIDS from getting care
People living with HIV have to reach disability status before they quality for aid
According to research conducted by the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, HIV/AIDS patients rely on Medicaid for their health insurance
Persistent Anti-Gay Attitudes: Others see HIV/AIDS as a punishment from God, so having HIV/AIDS creates a stigma and barrier for compassion and treatment.
Ways to Prevent HIV/AIDS in the Deep South:
Adopt new advances in HIV prevention, such as antigen/antibody combination HIV tests that can detect the earliest stages of infection.
Education! Education! Start from the South, destigmatize, especially start with the “No promo homo”.
All CDC-supported health departments and CBOs must formally partner with medical care providers:
Link newly diagnosed individuals to appropriate care
Provide behavioral interventions and other support to help people with HIV reduce transmission risk, stay in care, and adhere to treatment
Identify and re-engage people who have been diagnosed with HIV but have fallen out of care
Federal Funding Disparities:
The South has more people with HIV/AIDS than San Francisco and New York City combined, and South Carolina has the highest rate of rural people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. Yet South Carolina, which is 6th in the nation for people with AIDS, ranks 19th in the country for federal funding – receiving $7.9 million, in contrast to New York’s $80 million and California’s $70 million.
The South Carolina Rural Health Research Center reports that 91 percent of metropolitan rural counties and 98 percent of remote rural counties lack a Ryan White medical provider.
If you want to learn more about HIV/AIDS in the Deep South, our partner organization, HEROES LA, did a documentary. Please click here to go to their website and learn more about it.
deepsouth is a documentary about the rural American South and the people who inhabit its most quiet corners. Beneath layers of history, poverty--and now soaring HIV infections--four Americans redefine traditional Southern values to create their own solutions to survive.
HEROES's own Monica Johnson and Tamela King try tirelessly to unite reluctant participants at their annual HIV retreat in rural Louisiana.
HEROES LA also did a report on the disparity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic between metropolitan and rural areas in Louisiana. If you are interested in learning more about it, please click here.
All graphics by Jaclyn Saik