HIV/AIDS organization declares epidemic in southern US

An organization says there is an HIV/AIDS epidemic in the southern U.S., so there is a new push to fight HIV in the region. Naturally, that includes Southwest Florida.

Southern AIDS Coalition plans observe the inaugural Southern HIV/Aids Awareness Day in Birmingham, Alabama Tuesday to declare its movement to solve HIV/AIDS in the southern U.S.

“Especially in the south, the new epidemic is stigma,” said Marvin Anderson, with Southern AIDS Coalition. “And stigma is an epidemic because it creates barriers for families and for individuals actually going to get tested.”

The 10-year, $100 million plan was recently launched to help fund southern organizations. It provides resources to help advocate and end stigma around HIV/AIDS.

Despite advances in medicine and care, Anderson said more than half of undiagnosed infections are in the South.

AIDSVu is an HIV/AIDS research organization has an interactive map on its website that helps to visualize the number of people living with HIV locally, statewide and nationwide.

“Education, lack of resources, health care, poverty levels, socioeconomic classes: All of those things play a role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the South,” Anderson said.

Anderson said leaders from organizations in southern states will also meet people living with HIV to develop an action plan. To search for resources about where to get tested in your area, visit knowyourhivstatus.org. For more information, call the Florida HIV hotline at 1-800-352-2437. Click here for hotlines in other languages.

“People who are living with HIV, giving them skillsets and tools to be greater advocates to voice what it is to live with HIV and to be humanized,” Anderson said.

A main goal in this initiative is to change how people see a diagnosis.

“By decreasing or ending stigma, we actually take away or decrease barriers that would create new diagnosis,” Anderson said.

MORE: Florida Health Lee County – HIV Counseling and Testing 

Reporter:Anika Henanger
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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