Experts Say HIV, AIDS On the Rise in Southern States

MARCH 30, 2004 - Posted at 1:11 p.m. CDT

MIAMI, FL - The number of people with HIV or AIDS is rising faster in the South than any other region of the country.  And the problem will get worse without changes.  That's according to authors of a new study.

A report presented yesterday at the National HIV/AIDS Update Conference in Miami says the South accounted for only 38 percent of the U.S. population, but 40 percent of the country's AIDS cases in 2002.

The region also accounted for 46 percent of new AIDS cases between 2000 and 2002.  The report examined 17 Southern states and the District of Columbia.

Michelle Scavnicky, community relations director for the AIDS Institute, was one of the authors of the report.  She says a growing number of people living in rural areas are being diagnosed with HIV.

Part of the problem is a reluctance in many small towns to openly discuss sex, drug use and sexual orientation, making prevention difficult.  Access to health care is another cause.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)