AIDS Epidemic Still Spreading In Rural, Southern United States


Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South by Andrew J. Skerritt


In this segment, we’re examining why HIV/AIDS continues to spread in the United States, particularly among African Americans who live in the rural South.

African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS in Chattanooga.  “In the Hamilton County area and the southeast Tennessee Region, we do have a large portion who are African Americans who are infected,” Jerry Evans said.  He’s the Assistant Executive Director for Chattanooga CARES, a local organization focusing on education, prevention and support for all people affected by HIV.  “Of our patients at Chattanooga CARES, about 37 percent are African American.”

It’s a high percentage considering that, according to the most recent Census data, only about 20% of Hamilton County’s population is African American.  But it’s similar to the situation across the South.

“The South has less than half the overall population [of the United States], but almost half the number of AIDS cases,” Andrew J. Skerritt says.  He’s the author of a new book, Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial and the AIDS Epidemic in the South.  “In many cases, where you see a decline in new infections, the South has been going in the opposite direction.  The South also suffers because the South has a higher percentage of African Americans, and African American men and women have been bearing a strong burden as far as infection goes.”

December first is World AIDS Day.  For more about how HIV/AIDS specifically affects the South, visit the Southern AIDS Coalition.




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