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."