2012-06-19

This Is Where The HIV Epidemic Is Running Rampant In The U.S.

The epidemic may no longer make headlines like it used to, but it’s still devastating, and much worse in some places than others.

Believe it or not, it has only been three decades since the first case of HIV was diagnosed. Since then, the number of cases in the U.S has exploded, aided in no small part by the fact that more than one out of five people with HIV don’t even know they have the disease. The situation is especially dire in the South, where half of new HIV infections in the country are reported even though the region accounts for only 37% of the population.

The infographic below illustrates just how bad the situation is. In Memphis, there is only one HIV specialist per 1,142 people diagnosed; in Arkansas, there aren’t any specialists at all.

"There are some key social determinants driving the epidemic that lead to the concentration of diagnoses that we’re seeing in the South," explains Ronald Johnson, VP of public policy and advocacy for AIDS United, an organization that aims to end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.. "They include poverty and very limited access to care, healthcare infrastructure that has particular gaps in it, problems accessing HIV care, and the continuing impact of racism and discrimination that fuels the disproportionate impact that HIV has on African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities." Add to that the cultural conservatism in the area (read: homphobia and HIV discrimination), and we have ourselves a real problem.

AIDS United has a number of initiatives in the South to try to alleviate the problem, including a program in Alabama that offers hairstylists in training the opportunity to receive training that makes it easy for them to talk to clients about HIV protection; a telemedicine program to allow patients to receive counseling via phone; and a mobile HIV/AIDS care van in North Carolina.

It’s a start, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

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42 Comments

  • justme718718

    To those sanctimonious, judgmental  posters here that are quick to blame, I would say: Just look at yourself in a full-length mirror, and look at your OWN behavior".  

    Do you eat so much that you are obese, or borderline obese?  According to your criteria, you CHOSE to do that!

    Are you a smoker?  You CHOSE to do that!

    Are you a drinker?  You CHOSE to do that!

    Do you refuse to exercise regularly?  You CHOSE to do that!

    Do you eat processed food?  Fast food? You CHOSE to do that!

    ALL of those will lead to serious medical problems as well. 

    Humans make mistakes. Sometimes humans make mistakes that affect others.

    Sometimes, despite all the precautions mentioned here, it happens anyway. Tests fail to detect, condoms break. S*it happens!

    What is needed here is education, treatment, access to affordable health care., not judgmental condemnations.

    'nuff saiid.

  • Philly RN

    Seems misleading in the extreme to equate HIV transmission to not eating right and exercising. The reason HIV is spreading is the extreme ninnyisms from the Left in response to the disease instead of doing what is shown to have the best effect, but might cause political constituencies to protest, such as mandatory testing of populations of high school kids entering school, college kids enrolling, anyone entering a juvenile detention facility, jail, or prison, etc. 

    We mandate testing to protect hospitals and food service places from TB. Anyone in the food service or hospital industry must be tested for TB throughout their career and upon entry. This doesn't violate their civil rights, privacy, or cause them to not get access to care for TB if they are found to need it. 

    Mandatory testing for TB has caused the reduction of TB that is a public health success, except in the HIV population, ironically, where it is booming. 

    To equate the severity and cost of HIV over the lifespan to eating processed foods ignores the enormous costs the US spends now on this disease, and also green lights the current ineffective strategies that are more politically correct than effective. 

  • Robert

    The simplicity of stopping the growth in AIDS/HIV is astounding.  Use of condoms will stop 90%+ of the increases in infection.  The vast, vast majority of new infections is in the "men having unprotected sex with men" category.  The new generation of young gay men don't seem to care about AIDS.  They often say,"That was the older generation's problem.  We can just take a pill for it now."  They're right of course... but that doesn't mean they're not stupid.  For the vast majority of people getting infected at this point in the United States, AIDS/HIV is  a self-
    inflicted wound.  It has 2 causes- Complacency and Ignorance.  Neither of those is difficult to to cure.  But people don't seem to care enough.  

  • dastentwentynine

    Part of the reason HIV/AIDS has spread so much in the US is because of 2 factors:

    1. People are soo much more sexually promiscuous than ever before with EVERYTHING in the media and in life. Everyone acts like the whole world is an adult movie! There isn't hardly anything on TV that you can watch that doesn't eventually lead to someone getting in bed with another person and having sex.

    2. People are not obstaining from sex to protect themselves. And/or people are cheating on their partners in an exclusive relationship, thus bringing home diseases unknowingly.

    I hear people all the time say that it's not realistic to not have sex. Well, I got news for you, what IS REAL, is that if you don't have sex, you won't catch a disease like HIV, other than with IV Drug use. That's real. And you know, It's amazing how the people that always say what they can't do, find it none desirable to do the same things anymore after they've been infected.

    You only have 1 body, you don't get another one. You have to take care of it like your life depends on it/ And it does!

  • Philly RN

    This is a message that deserves more air time. But it just isn't popular to suggest that people slow down, minimize the number of sex partners, refrain from risky behaviors like drugs and alcohol and high risk sex. Especially in the formal and informal sex trade. 

    We are failing to reach the new generation who would have loved the bath house culture, and are working to restore it. We are failing to reach gay and straight men and women in the sex trade. 

    The current policies on HIV wholly fail to miss this population, as these policies were formed decades ago. 

    Where is there any scientific proof that it is the fuzzy catch all "racism" that leads to someone in the sex trade refusing to get tested? Yet this is a significant population represented in new cases. 

    Sure they tend to be minority, but is this why they are refusing to get tested? You can buy an HIV screening kit in a drug store. They are not prohibitive. You can get a free HIV test in any clinic. The test is cheap or free, and it is widely available. 

    People are REFUSING to get tested, and these are people who know they are engaged in high risk behavior that is most at risk for getting not just HIV but many STI diseases. 

    Until HIV policy addresses the sex trade as a problem, and not just another constituency, then HIV will continue to spread in that population disproportionately as though it has hardly been touched. 

  • Marci92471

    Black people are more suseptable to AIDS because the bubonic plague didnt reach Africa.  It is known that those who survived the plague in the 1300s passed on a gene called Delta 32. It was the reason for a better survival rate during the 1600 plague. In studies this gene will act as a deflector rather than a receptor for the HIV virus.  Black people cannot have this gene because they were not exposed to the plague & it has to be inherited from both parents. 

  • Philly RN

    Blacks tend to be engaged in higher risk sex than other populations. Until it becomes politically correct to say this again, then blacks will continue to be overrepresented in new HIV cases. 

    That is the "magic bullet" explanation, not a mutation or lack of one. 

  • Genomizer

    This is not accurate.  Only a small percentage of Northern Europeans (usually Scandanavian) have this mutation conferring resistance or partial resistance.  There is no definitive evidence that Bubonic plague caused the mutation, in fact there is evidence the mutation is much older than the plague.  Most scientists believe some other epidemic in our history caused the mutation, but either way, it is extremely rare.  You cannot say Black people are more susceptible, you can only say very rare northern europeans carry the resistance gene, since most 'white' people do not have the resistance either.  You can find out if you have this mutation by paying 250-300 bucks to 23andme.

  • Robert

    I'll bet a million bucks that virtually every Black person (not to mention Whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc.) who has been infected got it from having unprotected sex!  A small % has to do with cheating partners-- and also dirty needles with IV drug abusers.  Nationally that number is less than 5 %. (My numbers are from the CDC. )  

  • Deadletterresq

    Consider this.  We learned in EMT class that one of the highest increases of rates of HIV infection has been seen in people over 60 in retirement communities around Miami.  This is not a disease that discriminates and though education and precautions make it highly avoidable, not everyone who contracts it is to blame.  For example, there are needlsticks in a healthcare setting and victims of rape in another.  At this point it's a worldwide epidemic and ground zero has become academic.

  • Robert

    Ground zero is each and every person who has sex.  And I agree with you that "it's academic."  Just don't have unprotected sex with someone you're not absolutely sure has not been exposed.

  • Anon

    What a bunch of disgusting comments. I'd say you should be ashamed of yourselves, but you'd probably just tell me to fuck off or something. Think of it this way...what if your kid or sister or friend contracts AIDS. What then? If your argument is still "it's their fault" or "it's their problem" then I sincerely hope that person rethinks their relationship with you. Grow some balls, you inconsiderate group of twats. Educate yourselves and learn what it means to care about your fellow human, or just shut up.

  • Philly RN

    As an RN, I've worked with hundreds of people with HIV, and all of them were involved in high risk unprotected sex, from exposure to the sex trade, to exposure to someone in the sex trade, to having many partners while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. 

    I have never "judged" my patients, but should I not also point out that they must change their behavior to halt the spread of their disease? 

    Let's be honest -- the AIDS lobby has been trying to decriminalize someone who has sex and transmits HIV without telling the person their status. Is this really going to slow the spread of the disease, making more irresponsible decisions easier? 

    The HIV lobby has tried to excuse and green light the behaviors associated with transmission all while saying "just have safe sex" and use a condom. Clearly this message is ineffective with the new cases. Why?
    Until it becomes OK again to ask why we are missing those who are engaged in high risk sex, we are going to have high transmission rates in this group in the US. 

  • C7di6xon

    What you do with YOUR BODY is YOUR FAULT!  Period.  That's not inconsiderate it's just being real.  In the majority of all cases it's your lifestyle choices that are the root cause and that means you bear responsibility for your own actions.  That's like saying your over weight and you eat at McDonalds every day and it's MCDonalds fault your over weight.  Ridiculous.  Insanity.

  • Robert

    My younger brother died in 1995 from AIDS.  He had been a rather promiscuous young gay man in San Diego and then San Jose, CA.  He got it from unprotected sex, most likely in 1984 or 1985- he worked with several groups studying the disease-that's how they figured out when he was exposed.   Back then nobody knew what the cause was.  For those millions of deaths to have meant nothing to today's new Generation is unbelievable to me.
      To try to prevent HIV/AIDS is to care a great deal about our fellow human beings.  The truth is- infection is usually their own fault...through ignorance or complacency.  HIV/AIDS is a tough disease--I think the people who are most susceptible to being infected -gay men- should accept their responsibility to be careful every time they have sex--and make sure their partner hasn't been exposed to it or use a friggin rubber.  Have only protected sex...the disease stops growing and becomes much more under control.      

  • senor

    Not 100% preventable, only seen to be unpreventable.  As a people we suffer together when it comes death, birth, life.  Why call people stupid

  • gnac

    Are you saying because of sexual preferences one should not be held accountable for their failure to take precautions?  The disease is 100% preventable.  So yes, if my family members engaged in a high risk activity without taking the known safety precuations that could prevent injury or death - they would be STUPID and deserve to suffer the consequences.  Sexual orientation should not impact my reaction to stupid behaviours.  How inconsiderate are they to expect access to limited resources when they could have and should have prevented their exposure?

  • Ed Hale

    conspicuously absent from your assessement is "stupidity".  90% (or more) of HIV cases are ther result of willingly participating in activities that one knows or should know could lead to the contraction of HIV

  • Philly RN

    Agreed Ed and JIm. It is conventional wisdom to print that it is "racism and discrimination" as the article did above, but where is the data that shows that? Where is the incontrovertible link to the loose buzz works "racism" and "discrimination" and HIV status?

    Just because someone is poor is not proof they are victims of racism and discrimination. People make choices also, and people must choose to embrace the educational opportunities they have, or not. 

    Someone doesn't enter the sex trade because of vague buzz words. The informal and formal sex trades are the true ground zero for transmission, and it is politically incorrect to point out that minorities, and yes, blacks, have a high participation in and acceptance of the informal and formal sex trades, both gay and straight. 

    This observation seems more to the point than the pet catch all phrases that fail to direct us to proven policies that are working in this population.