September 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm EDT | by Staff reports
States in the Deep South hardest hit by HIV: study
South HIV rate, AIDS Alabama, gay news, Washington Blade

Offices of AIDS Alabama in Birmingham. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — Southern states now have the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses, the largest percentage of people living with the disease and the most people dying from it, the Washington Post reports citing Rainey Campbell, executive director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, a nonprofit serving 16 Southern states and the District.

Fifty percent of all new HIV cases are in the South. In some Southern states, blacks account for more than 80 percent of new HIV diagnoses among women, the Post article said.

States in the South have the least expansive Medicaid programs and the strictest eligibility requirements to qualify for assistance, which prevents people living with HIV/AIDS from getting care, according to a coalition report. In the South, Campbell said, people living with HIV have to reach disability status before they qualify for aid. This is significant, because nationally the vast majority of HIV/AIDS patients rely on Medicaid for their health insurance, according to research conducted by the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, the Washington Post article said.

None of the nine Deep South states with the highest rates of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses — Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — has opted to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Those states also have the highest fatality rates from HIV in the country, according to the coalition.

Those who don’t have Medicaid or other health-care coverage rarely visit primary-care doctors and aren’t getting tested for HIV, the Post article said, citing Michael Saag, an HIV/AIDS researcher with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

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