The American South has a big HIV problem.
Rates of HIV infection among men who have sex with men are highest in six Southern states and the District of Columbia, according to a new analysis, conducted by researchers at Emory University.
In these states — South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Georgia — more than 15 percent of men who have sex with men were HIV-positive in 2012.
And in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, the rates of diagnosed HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men were nearly twice that of the national rate, the researchers reported Tuesday.
When the authors looked at the data on a city level, 21 of the top 25 cities were in the South. In five cities — Jackson, Miss., Columbia, S.C., El Paso, Texas, Augusta, Ga., and Baton Rouge, La. — at least a quarter of all men who have sex with men were living with HIV in 2012.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 1.2 million Americans aged 13 and older are living with HIV infection. Men who have sex with men make up an estimated 4 percent of the overall US population, but nearly two-thirds of all new HIV infections in 2010 were in this demographic.
The study, published in the journal JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, is the first to catalogue HIV rates among men who have sex with men by state, county, and metropolitan statistical area or city.
Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said knowing where the greatest rates of infection are is key to targeting public health resources where they are most needed.
“We hope these data empower local public health officials, community-based organizations, and everyone fighting HIV to bring resources to the gay and bisexual men who need them the most,” he said.