HIV Health Literacy in the South: A Work in Progress

Published: November 4, 2014

Original Article:

Nearly half of all Americans with HIV live in the South, with prevalence rates in Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana now at 200 per 100,000 people — a rate surpassed in the U.S. only by the heavily populated Northeast. According to the Southern AIDS Coalition’s 2009–2010 HIV/AIDS Health Care Policy Brief and Recommendations, Southern states also continue to have "the highest newly reported HIV cases and the smallest decrease in deaths due to AIDS," and "Providers have become increasingly concerned and frustrated at the prospect of having to provide increased care to meet increased need with fewer dollars."

Unfortunately, as HIV rates in the region have continued to rise — especially among young, poor, black, and Latino men who have sex with men — government resources for people with HIV have decreased dramatically. As a result, people with HIV, their caregivers and service providers, and others face significant challenges in gaining access to accurate, up-to-date information about HIV treatment and prevention, as well as in receiving quality care.

Given the overwhelming needs in the South, ACRIA has given the region priority in its work providing desperately needed HIV treatment and prevention information, especially in rural areas where health care and other services are scarce. Over the past five years, our HIV educators have delivered training and capacity building services in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana — states with some of the highest HIV rates in the country. This work has given us an up-close look at how barriers to care have devastated the region, but it has also shown us what is possible when communities come together to improve the health and lives of those most in need.

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