Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Increasing HIV Rates In South Tied To Lack Of Education

A few weeks ago I posted on Hivster about the AIDSvu map published by Emory University, which illustrates for the first time rates of infection county-by-county in the continental US.  Now USA Today has analyzed the information and has found disturbing yet familiar information: HIV/AIDS rates of infection are rising among poor communities uneducated about the virus, especially in the South.

Long considered a "gay disease" centered in urban environments on the coasts, HIV has become firmly entrenched in the heartland, with rates of infection skyrocketing in rural and impoverished areas of 11 Southern states.  Due to racially-oriented divides in socioeconomic status, the virus is disproportionately affecting communities of color, an alarming trend that black and Latino community leaders would do well to heed.

From USA Today:

"Harold Henderson, an HIV expert at the University of Mississippi, says Southern states suffer from a host of health issues, including HIV, for reasons that extend from poverty to a lack of education and fragile families. He added that many children in the South lack sufficient sex education.

"'The age when kids first become sexually active is pretty young in the Deep South,' he says. 'That has a lot to do with the fact parents don't do a good job of (educating their kids about sex). And if you happen to live in a broken home, with drug use and poverty involved, you may not be getting the parental supervision you need.'

"The new analysis identified 175 counties that rank among the top 20% for both HIV and poverty, all but six in the South. Two of the six are the boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx in New York City. Seven states — Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virgnia — did not share their county-level data."

People ask me all the time-- as HIV/AIDS is a subject I harp on frequently-- what the best course to arrest new infections in this country, and I'm almost exasperated by how many times I've had to shout "EDUCATION EDUCATION EDUCATION!"  In fact, studies show that black Africans who were barely educated but had heard of the local HIV/AIDS advocacy group even then stood a much higher chance of avoiding the virus.

With sex ed being one of our top weapons in defeating HIV, wouldn't it be nice if our legislators stopped slashing education?

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