The Southern State AIDS and STD Directors Work Group on Thursday released the final version of a report titled "HIV/AIDS and STDs in the South: A Call to Action," which says HIV is "drastically and quickly" spreading throughout the South and details the need for an influx of money to combat the disease, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The report was written by officials from state- and community-based HIV/AIDS and STD groups in the District of Columbia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia in response to climbing HIV and STD infection rates in the region. The report outlines barriers to providing HIV prevention and care services in Southern states, which include large numbers of poor people, poor health care infrastructures, and difficulty in accessing rural areas. It also calls on federal, state, and local governments to "recognize the disparate impact of HIV and STDs in the South" and to devote more resources to prevention and treatment programs.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, more than 130,000 people in the South have AIDS, more than any other region in the country. "The AIDS epidemic is out of control in the South," said Gene Copello, cochairman of the Southern AIDS Coalition, an advocacy group made up of health officials from 14 states and the District of Columbia. "In essence we're declaring a state of emergency. Unless some crucial steps are taken, the epidemic will get worse. We plan to be very loud and forceful about this."