AIDS Epidemic Still Spreading In Rural, Southern United States

AIDS Epidemic Still Spreading In Rural, Southern United States

Michael Edward Miller

Chattanooga, TN – In this segment, we're examining why HIV/AIDS continues to spread in the United States, particularly among African Americans who live in the rural South.

African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS in Chattanooga. "In the Hamilton County area and the southeast Tennessee Region, we do have a large portion who are African Americans who are infected," Jerry Evans said. He's the Assistant Executive Director for Chattanooga CARES, a local organization focusing on education, prevention and support for all people affected by HIV. "Of our patients at Chattanooga CARES, about 37 percent are African American."

It's a high percentage considering that, according to the most recent Census data, only about 20% of Hamilton County's population is African American. But it's similar to the situation across the South.

"The South has less than half the overall population [of the United States], but almost half the number of AIDS cases," Andrew J. Skerritt says. He's the author of a new book, Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South. "In many cases, where you see a decline in new infections, the South has been going in the opposite direction. The South also suffers because the South has a higher percentage of African Americans, and African American men and women have been bearing a strong burden as far as infection goes."