Monday, December 5, 2011

The hidden AIDS crisis

Last Thursday's World AIDS Day offers a reminder that human rights activism should begin at home. As this BBC News report notes, "[w]hen the world's attention turned to the scourge of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, the disease was still spreading in the states of the Old Confederacy." The AIDS epidemic in the American South has remained largely hidden from view, as the stigma attached to the disease has prevented public dialogue around its causes and potential preventative measures.
Silence has come at a high cost, particularly for African-Americans. The Centers for Disease Control report that in 2007, 46% of new AIDS diagnoses and 50% of AIDS deaths in the United States occurred in the South. The Southern region also had the largest proportion of AIDS cases from less urban and non-urban areas. Sixty-one percent of people infected with AIDS in the South were African-American. In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among African-American women was 15 times that of white women and over 3 times the rate of Latina women. Eighty-five percent of African-American women acquired HIV through heterosexual sex.
Though we can be proud of the progress made in much of the United States in the battle against HIV and AIDS, these figures remind us that we've a long way to go. More importantly, they remind us that we need look no further than our own backyard for ongoing examples of inequality and opportunities for human rights activism.

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