South Carries Heaviest HIV Burden

Mortality and diagnosis rates associated with HIV were staggeringly higher in southern US states than in the rest of the country, according to researchers who called for the prioritization of prevention programs in this region.

Mortality and diagnosis rates associated with HIV were staggeringly higher in southern US states than in the rest of the country, according to researchers who called for the prioritization of prevention programs in this region.

AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, and TX were identified in the Journal in Community Health study as having higher HIV diagnosis rates than any other US region, amounting for 38% of all HIV cases nationally.

“Persons diagnosed with HIV in the targeted states region reflected higher proportions of women, blacks, and individuals residing in suburban and rural areas than the overall United States,” the authors also noted.

To identify the makeup of HIV patients, and burdens associated with the disease, Susan Reif, the Center for Health Policy and Inequalities Research at Duke University, and her colleagues accessed the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National HIV Surveillance System to pinpoint HIV positive adults and adolescents 13 years and older in addition to determining HIV-associated mortalities.

In addition to identifying a regional HIV disparity, the authors also reported that in 2011 23% of HIV patients in this high risk area were women, and 57% were black or African American.

“Among both men and women, the targeted states had a higher percentage of diagnoses that were attributed to heterosexual contact (14.5 and 88.3% respectively) and a lower percentage attributed to injection drug use (IDU) (4.3 and 11.5% respectively) when compared to the United States overall for heterosexual contact (11.7 and 85.7% respectively) and IDU (5.6 and 14.1% respectively),” the writers also noted.

Most concerning was 5-year outcomes for HIV patients in these states. The investigators found this area had a lower HIV and AIDS survival rate (0.85, 0.73, respectively) than the national average (0.86, 0.77, respectively). Specifically, the region was found to have and the highest death rate among persons living with HIV of any US region.

“Regional differences in demographics and transmission risk did not explain the higher death rate among persons living with HIV in the targeted states indicating that other factors contribute to this disparity,” the authors remarked.

Dealing with poverty and stigmas in these southern states, researchers claimed, is crucial when creating effective HIV outreach programs.