Because of increased media coverage, there is more awareness of the shortage of prevention and the shortage of treatment for HIV and AIDS patients in the South [ “Southern states are now epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S.,” Sept. 23]. However, the problem still exists. Southern states have the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses, as well as the highest rates of AIDS mortality in the United States. Many organizations, including the American Academy of HIV Medicine , are doing their best to address the issue.
For instance, AAHIVM regularly conducts continuing medical education events throughout the South. We hope to launch a yet-unfunded HIV Fellowship program targeting underserved rural areas of the Southeast, and to expand a free mentoring program led by our credentialed HIV specialists. While our HIV practitioners in the Southeast have increased in numbers over the past couple of years, we do not have enough members to keep pace with the growing number of infected patients. The majority of the Southeastern states have chosen to reject a free expansion of Medicaid that would bring life-saving prevention and care to millions of citizens — it’s a real public health crisis.
Only through partnership and collaboration can we address the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the South. Communities, states, patients and the health-care system must work together to define the need, identify the resources and opportunities, and enact change.
James M. Friedman, Executive Director, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Washington