BY Michael W.E. Edwards
April 01 2003 1:00 AM ET
On the one hand, it was a surprise when we all learned that nearly half of all new AIDS cases being diagnosed in the United States were in the Southern region and not on the East or West coasts, where America's two largest cities are. On the other hand, though, when you begin to contemplate the dynamics of the area, it begins to make sense. At first glance the South conjures images of genteel, laid-back people who are rich in heritage and cultural pride. Having grown up there, I will never forget the slow, even pace of life in close-knit communities. However, it was the flip side of those same memories that made me realize that HIV had a destiny in an area that is so easily admired for its simple virtues. For it is those very same attributes that one person sees as pride and close-knit ties that another person will see as arrogance and a place where one's personal tales need to be kept hushed.
This also is the South that I grew up in. And it is no surprise to see how it became a petri dish for unchecked growth and spread of a virus that carries so much stigma with it, specifically for the typical methods of how it is spread from one person to another.
So with this issue we begin the first of a four-part series on life with HIV disease throughout our country with a look at the Southern region, why the epidemic is growing disproportionately out of control there, and what researchers and the residents are doing about it. We will continue with our U.S. overview in our next three issues as we move to the West, then the Midwest, and finally the Northeast, which will coincide with our fifth anniversary issue of HIV Plus. We thought this was the perfect time for us to take the pulse of the nation. We wanted to see how people are living and dealing with this virus that has become so common and everyday to many, yet talked of only in quiet whispers among many others'allowing the pandemic to continue to explode and never fail to surprise us.
Strangely enough, it is this same type of apathy, if you will, that has turned a once-energized activist country into a place of complacency. A place where anti-HIV medications almost feel as though they are becoming extinct. Our feature on clinical-trials programs and researchers' inability to round up the necessary numbers of volunteers to get their studies completed as swiftly as necessary should surprise and alarm everyone involved in this battle.
As you read through this issue, remember where the passion to defeat HIV once stood. And if you are among a younger crowd that cannot remember such days, think about where the dying passion could lead us all to.
Until next time, stay well.