About AIDS

HIV/AIDS Is Alive in Small-Town America

HIV and AIDS are far more common in small towns and rural America than many people realize. The number of new AIDS cases is growing in non-urban counties, particularly in the South, but it's not a new phenomenon; even by the early Nineties, the growth rate in smaller cities and rural counties was almost three times the growth rate of the large-city "epicenters." Recent data say the percentages continue to grow worse. Granted, the total number of AIDS cases in rural areas is still much smaller than in big cities; however, the percentage growth rate is higher, and the resulting economic impact can be devastating. Smaller communities generally lack clinics or doctors that are adequately prepared to deal with HIV, and the per-person per-year cost of the treatments can be burdensome.

In some ways, the face of AIDS is changing. Even as the number of new AIDS cases nationwide has leveled off, particularly among white gay men, infections are continuing unabated among heterosexuals, minorities, women, and gay men of color. However, in other ways the epidemic remains the same, as newly infected people in small towns and rural areas face the same biases and fears that confronted people in the cities in the 1980s. Even in terms of prevention, AIDS can be a difficult subject to address, especially where the discussion of sex is frequently taboo.

Just because someone lives outside Austin in one of the nearby smaller communities or the beautiful Hill Country doesn't mean that AIDS isn't a problem around them. Education still needs to occur, care still needs to be provided, compassion is still called for, and personal choices about behavior still matter.

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