Wednesday, September 24, 2014

People living with HIV/AIDs in the Rural South

A recent article in the The Washington Post describes the difficulties faced by people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in the South. While nonprofit organizations, such as the Southern Aids Coalition, continue to advocate for increased awareness and funding, budget cuts threaten the availability of medical care and prescription drugs for PLWHA in the South.

The author, Teresa Wiltz, points to “social factors such as poverty, persistent anti-gay attitudes and a lack of transportation in rural areas” as leading factors that result in the higher rates of HIV in the South. A report released in 2013 by the SCRHRC on HIV/AIDS in Rural America found that in 2008, the South had the highest prevalence rate of PLWHA of the 28 states analyzed. 


Using 2010 data obtained by AIDSvu.org, we were able to map the rate of persons living with an HIV diagnosis by rurality (below). The dark shades of green (urban) and red (rural) indicate an above median rate of persons living with HIV. 

Map created by South Carolina Rural Health Research Center
Source: AIDSvu.org 2010 data

The map illustrates that Southern states are concentrated with high levels of HIV prevalence. As pointed out in the Washington Post article, an additional obstacle faced by Southern states is the decision to not implement Medicaid Expansion. This disproportionately impacts uninsured individuals, many of whom are minorities, as described in an infographic published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in JAMA

Access to care and the availability of discounted or free prescription drugs for PLWHA in the South continues to be of concern. Rural areas in the South are faced with the added barriers of lack of transportation, low awareness/education, and poverty.

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