HIV/AIDS-poverty link strongest in the South
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By Greg Campbell, for
AIDS activist Cedric Sturdevant, 46,
of Jackson, Miss., who was diagnosed
with HIV in 2006, says
misinformation about HIV helps fuel
Mississippi's epidemic. "Most people
still think it's a gay man's disease,"
By Steve Sternberg and Jack Gillum, USA TODAY
Nearly all U.S. counties stricken with both high rates of HIV infection and poverty are located in Southern states
of data from 43 states.
The study, which drew on data made available from Emory University's AIDSVu project, offers the clearest pictu
income and HIV/AIDS.
"This tells a story about heavily impacted regions across the South," says Patrick Sullivan, leader of the team at E
that produced AIDSVu, the first effort to use state-of-the-art methods to map HIV infection rates by county. "See
things in a different way," Sullivan says.
INTERACTIVE: View map of HIV diagnosis by state
STORY: Lack of education fuels HIV epidemic in South
MORE: 1 in 3 develop AIDS within year of HIV diagnosis
The analysis highlights a vast geographic shift in the HIV epidemic in the USA in the three decades since the firs
reported in gay men by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981.
Average poverty rate for 439 counties in the U.S. with high rates of HIV infection:
*Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Te
Source: USA TODAY analysis of data from Emory University AIDSVU project
The virus has since made its way from big cities on both coasts into the USA heartland, becoming heavily entren
pockets of poverty in 11 Southern states.
"It's clear the epidemic has emerged in ways that would have been difficult to predict from the early cases," Sulli
Harold Henderson, an HIV expert at the University of Mississippi, says Southern states suffer from a host of hea
that extend from poverty to a lack of education and fragile families. He added that many children in the South lac
"The age when kids first become sexually active is pretty young in the Deep South," he says. "That has a lot to do
job of (educating their kids about sex). And if you happen to live in a broken home, with drug use and poverty in
parental supervision you need."
The new analysis identified 175 counties that rank among the top 20% for both HIV and poverty, all but six in th
boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York City. Seven states — Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, Sou
— did not share their county-level data.
Among other findings:
•Blacks on average were poorer than whites in 96% of the 175 counties with high HIV and poverty rates, accordi
more than 40% of blacks live below the federal poverty line. Those counties also were those with the highest rate
•Of the top-ranking counties, only 11 had higher HIV infection rates among whites than blacks. They included B
encompass St. Louis and Philadelphia. The rest are in Arkansas, Mississippi , Texas, Virginia and Louisiana.