Valdosta Daily Times

November 28, 2012

HIV/AIDS in the South

Staff Writer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — HIV/AIDS has never gone away. Most people know this, but many readers may have come to believe that the numbers have dropped. That, perhaps, HIV/AIDS is no longer a danger or threat. These readers may have been surprised by the numbers in a Monday article in The Valdosta Daily Times.

• About 950 people are living with HIV/AIDS in the 10 counties of South Health District as of 2010. These counties are Lowndes, Brooks, Echols, Lanier, Cook, Berrien, Tift, Irwin, Ben Hill, Turner.

• About 460 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Lowndes County.

• African-Americans make up 75-80 percent of all HIV cases in South Health District.

The South Health District supplied these numbers in preparation for Saturday’s Dec. 1 World AIDS Day and the 4:30 p.m. Friday screening of the documentary “deepsouth” in Valdosta State University Student Union Theatre. The film chronicles the lives of four people and the rise of HIV/AIDS in the South. The movie is a frank revelation that HIV and AIDS have not vanished and are on the rise in the southern United States.

Many people think AIDS is no longer as prevalent because national news indicates lower death rates compared to reports from the 1980s. This is because new drugs are keeping people alive, but “the number of those infected every year has not decreased and we are still seeing 55,000 people a year newly infected with roughly half of those new infections in the South,” said John Rogers, South Health District public health educator.

Also, misconceptions, especially in South Georgia, lead people to believe they face no danger. Rogers lists these misconceptions as “it is a gay disease, only drug users get it, only people who slept around get it, there is no HIV in the rural areas of Georgia, only young people get it and many other misconceptions. All of these are also wrong.”

World AIDS Day is set aside to raise awareness about AIDS and HIV. For South Georgia, this awareness has come a few days early. Even though medications have increased the lifespan and improved the quality of life for HIV/AIDS patients, there remains no cure. That has not changed at all.