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The domestic HIV epidemic is becoming one largely centered in Southern states, with a total of 17 states in the South now accounting for nearly half of all the country's new HIV cases, reports the Associated Press. While new U.S. HIV cases climbed less than 1% nationwide between 2000 and 2004, they rose 9% in the South.
"The South is the new 'ground zero' for the AIDS epidemic," Kathy Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama, told the news agency. "And yet most people have no idea just how bad it is or how much worse it could get."
Much of the disease's impact in the South is among African-Americans, who some officials say are at a greater risk for the disease because of poverty, substance abuse, a lack of sex education, and a lack of access to health services. In Alabama, for example, African-Americans account for 26% of the population but account for 70% of new HIV diagnoses. (The Advocate)