HIV/AIDS Hits Hard In South

Montgomery Advertiser, June 29, 2006

The bloodless numbers that form statistics never tell the full human story, but they do provide a harsh dose of reality about the incidence of HIV/AIDS in the South, where infection rates are significantly disproportionate to the population. In our state in particular, the numbers undeniably show the disproportionate impact of the disease among black Alabamians.

The South, with roughly one-third of the nation’s population, has close to half—46 percent—of all new cases diagnosed, the Centers for Disease Control reports. The CDC statistics are more sobering yet for black Americans. Although representing about 12 percent of the nation’s population, blacks account for half of all newly reported cases.

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In Alabama, the racial disparity in the incidence of HIV/AIDS is striking. As of May 31, figures from the state Department of Public Health listed 14,366 cases of HIV/AIDS in Alabama. Of those, 9,072 involved black Alabamians. That’s slightly more than 63 percent of the total—in a state in which blacks make up about 26 percent of the population. Put another way, the incidence of HIV/AIDS among black Alabamians is almost 2.5 times their percentage in the population.

Not surprisingly, cases in all segments of the population tend to be greater in the major population centers. Jefferson County has the most cases with 4,184, followed by Mobile County with 2,344 and Montgomery County with 1,705.

Those numbers are troubling enough on their own, but the likelihood—indeed, the near-certainty—is that infection is substantially higher. The CDC estimates that for every person known to be HIV-positive, there are as many as five who don’t know they are infected.

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