When the HIV epidemic began in the U.S. in 1981, the cases appeared mainly in major coastal cities, like New York and San Francisco, among gay and bisexual men and injecting drug users. And interactive maps showing current HIV cases from AIDSvu at Emory University shows the geographic path of how the disease expanded through the U.S.:
Cases are still concentrated in population centers, so Los Angeles, for example, has a high rate of HIV infections even though the Southwest appears to have had less impact than other regions. And as NPR points out, one of the reddest sections of the map — showing the highest rate of adults living with HIV — stretches through the Southeast:
The Southeast has been hard hit by HIV, with infections concentrated along the I-95 corridor from Washington to Florida, and in the Mississippi Delta. Eight of the 10 U.S. states with the highest rates of new HIV infection are located here. High rates of poverty factor in as well, as does the region’s low ranking on many basic health measures. Nearly 50 percent of newly diagnosed U.S. AIDS cases each year are reported in the South.
The map also shows a large concentration of cases in New York along the Canadian border. These deep red counties house state and federal correctional facilities, and prisoners tend to have a higher rate of HIV infections. Prisons are also high risk environments for HIV transmission.
This week, activists and officials are meeting for the 19th International AIDS conference. To kick off the conference — meeting in the U.S. for the first time since 1990 — Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius laid out four new public-private initiatives to help people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., like research to help HIV/AIDS patients stay on their medications and a texting program to help them manage their health. This is in addition to nearly $80 million in grants ensure that low-income people living with HIV/AIDS have access to health care and medication.
At the peak in the mid-1980s, the United States saw about 130,000 new HIV infections. Now, roughly 50,000 new cases are added annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. African Americans and Latinos are the most affected, and the HIV infection rate among African American gay and bisexual men is 50 percent higher than for white men who have sex with men.