HIV in the South Part, II
The spread of HIV has drastically improved over the last thirty years. As medications and therapies get better, less and less cases are becoming the norm and people living with HIV are able to manage their chronic condition. However, access to care and awareness have not been distributed equally across urban and rural populations.
In particular, the South has the burden of carrying over half of new HIV infections in the United States.1 Lack of resources in our country’s poorest states trickle down to underfunded health care infrastructures and poor access to quality HIV services and testing centers.
HIV awareness in the southern US
Awareness is one of the primary weapons in combating HIV. Knowing your HIV status can greatly impact your quality of life. By regularly getting tested, you are increasing the chance of identifying your exposure to the virus early. The earlier it is detected, the quicker one can start medication to control the disease. This is an area of improvement and can be transformative.
People are unaware of their HIV status
Currently, fewer people are aware of their HIV status in the South than in other states. If this is true, it also means that fewer of these people are seeking medical professionals to control the virus. People living without adequate medical care also experience the worst complications and highest rates of death from this disease. This all starts with awareness. If we can increase awareness and testing, we can save lives.
Health insurance and access to care
The CDC reports that nearly half of all American’s without health insurance live in the South.1 This combined with the fact that over half of all new HIV cases are occurring in the South means that many cases of HIV are still outside of a medical professional's care. Even with health insurance, there are the added factors of transportation barriers, shortage of HIV specialists, and lack of social service resources found in rural areas.
Shifting attention and resources to the South
There has been a lack of attention. When we don’t consider people outside of our urban centers, they get left behind. It should be our goal to consider ideas to bring this issue to the forefront and provide resources that could prevent the ~7,000 deaths that resulted from HIV in the South in 2016.1 Providing infrastructure to get people aware of their status and access to health care are the keys. We need people who would be willing to open the door and change things for our communities in the South.
Editor's note: Click here to read part one of 'HIV in the South'.
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