Thursday, August 20, marks Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (SHAAD) 2020. Launched last year by the Southern AIDS Coalition, the day presents an opportunity to draw attention to the epidemic in the South, which comprises 51% of new HIV diagnoses annually, although only 38% of the U.S. population lives there. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines the South as including Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia as well as Washington, DC.
SouthernSolution.org offers a plethora of HIV-related information on the South, broken down by state and using data from the Ryan White HIV/Program (the program is a federal effort to provide HIV care and supportive services to low-income and underinsured Americans. Since it launched 30 years ago this month, the program has provided grants to state and community-based HIV groups).
This year, amid COVID-19, several SHAAD events are slated to take place virtually Thursday, August 20, and Friday, August, 21. They range from a discussion about Latino and immigrant communities in the South to a happy hour and awards ceremony with artists and regional leaders. A schedule of events is posted on SouthernSolution.org.
The CDC offers a breakdown on the state of HIV in the South. It notes in part:
Like the rest of the country, the majority of HIV diagnoses in the South occur in urban areas. However, the South has a higher proportion of new diagnoses (24%) in suburban and rural areas compared with other regions in the U.S., which poses unique challenges to HIV prevention efforts.
The impact of HIV in the South also varies by race. African Americans are disproportionately impacted in every risk group, accounting for 53% of new HIV diagnoses in the region in 2017. Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) account for six out of every 10 new HIV diagnoses among African Americans in the South. Among MSM, the number of new diagnoses in Black MSM is nearly twice that of white and Hispanic/Latino MSM. While the number of new HIV diagnoses is similar among the latter two groups, new diagnoses among Hispanic/Latino MSM in the south have increased 27% since 2012, while new diagnoses among white MSM in the South have decreased 9% in the same period. Among women, Black women are also disproportionately impacted, accounting for 67% of new HIV diagnoses among all women in the South.
For a closer look at issues affecting transgender communities in the South, read The Grapevine: A Southern Trans Report by the Transgender Law Center. Similarly, to learn more about the LGBT experience in the region, see Telling a New Southern Story: LGBTQ Resilience, Resistance, and Leadership and LGBTQ Policy Spotlight: Mapping LGBTQ Equality in the U.S. South, both from this year and both by Movement Advancement Project.