HIV/AIDS activists and service organization leaders from 13 Southern states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday issued a "call to action" for Southern states, outlining obstacles and setting goals to combat the spread of HIV in the region, The Miami Herald reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130,000 people in the South have AIDS, more than any other region of the nation. But the region lags behind other areas of the country in receiving federal money for treatment and prevention programs. Other challenges for HIV-positive people in the South include a lack of access to services, increased rates of other sexually transmitted diseases, higher-than-average HIV/AIDS stigma, and chronic shortages of drugs for public treatment programs.
Gene Copello, executive director of Florida AIDS Action, which sponsored the regional conference where the call to action was drafted, said that the epidemic in the South is mirroring that in some developing nations and needs immediate attention before it escalates further. "We intend to be very loud about it and very forceful because our people are dying all over the South," he said.