South Needs More AIDS Money

(New Orleans-AP) -- Health officials from the South says the region gets short shrift when it comes to federal AIDS money, and an additional 122 (m) million dollars a year is needed to erase the inequality. Officials from 14 states and Washington, D.C., told a national conference of AIDS/HIV workers who are meeting in New Orleans that caseloads in the region are growing but federal money isn't keeping pace.

The group says they will ask Congress for the extra dollars to help with risk-reduction education, medical care, housing and programs that help people get expensive anti-viral prescriptions. The South had 39 percent of the nation's AIDS diagnoses in 2001 -- the latest year for which such figures are available according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the North Carolina Department of Health says, Southerners with HIV get nearly eight percent less money for treatment than their counterparts nationwide, and almost eleven percent less for prevention programs.

The group says the disparity isn't caused by any sort of prejudice, but because federal money is weighted toward cities with large numbers of cases, such as New York, Miami and New Orleans. Evelyn Foust directs programs for AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases in North Carolina. She says federal money is often the only hope for HIV-infected Southerners because they live in states that have cut back on health programs because they're facing big budget deficits.