Dr Vincent Marconi travels to Durban, South Africa each summer with his family to work with hundreds of HIV and AIDS patients. Despite global support for research and leading activists, AIDS continues to strike many developing countries. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV / AIDS estimates that there are 5.6 million people in South Africa alone living with the deadly disease.
Yet after each trip to Africa, Marconi returns home to Atlanta, Georgia, to continue his work at Ponce De Leon Center, one of the largest HIV / AIDS centers in the United States. Staff at the center provide medical services to around 5,000 men, women, adolescents and children.
Here in the Southeastern United States, he says, HIV / AIDS is a very neglected problem.
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“Much attention has been paid to overseas,” said Marconi, who is also an associate professor in the Emory University School of Medicine. “Especially in these tough economic times, we tend to be short-sighted in our charitable giving efforts. People say, “I’m already giving to the international HIV effort – I can’t see two epidemics happening. No one wants to believe that extreme poverty and neglect exists in a nation as rich and powerful as this.
At the end of 2008, a estimated at 1,178,350 people aged 13 and over were living with HIV or AIDS in the United States. And the CDC estimates that about 50,000 people become infected with HIV each year.
In the southeast, the epidemic is growing faster than in any other region of the country. African Americans make up 12% of the population in the United States, but make up about 45% of people newly infected with HIV, according to the CDC. And some of the biggest cities in the South have dominated the The CDC List diagnosis rates in 2008: Miami. Atlanta. Memphis, Tennessee. Orlando. New Orleans. Charlotte, North Carolina.
Patrick Packer, Executive Director of the Southern AIDS Coalition, describes it as the “perfect storm”. The coalition was formed in 2001 to draw attention to the HIV / AIDS epidemic – what the group calls a state of emergency in the South. The problem is threefold, Packer says: stigma hinders education and promotes fear; socio-economic factors prevent infected people from receiving medical care; and the absence of a targeted strategy prevents agencies from effectively using the few resources available.
This week, the CNN Health team is taking a close look at the epidemic with a series leading up to World AIDS Day on December 1.
CNN technical producer Curt Merrill worked with CDC data, the Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation, and the National Forum on the Quality of Minorities to create a interactive map showing the prevalence of AIDS and HIV in the United States compared to our levels of obesity, stroke, heart disease, and male / female life expectancy. Click here to see the most affected areas and to search for your county or state.
Monday, Jacques Wilson profiles Pastor Brenda Byrth, which takes a stand against the stigma of HIV / AIDS in rural South Carolina. Then Tuesday, Madison Park analyze the growing problem in North Florida.
Wednesday, Elisabeth landau presents to us Crystal, a homeless drug addict in Atlanta whose main priorities are cleaning up and finding a place to live – not dealing with her diagnosis. Thusday, Robert johnson presents a the story of the photo on the crisis facing a government-run drug program for people living with HIV / AIDS.
The series will end with a in-depth look at the work carried out at the Ponce De Leon clinic and hope for a solution to the HIV / AIDS epidemic in the Southeastern United States.