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Mapping HIV by state, country, metro

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Prevalence of HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) per 100 MSM, by U.S. states and District of Columbia, 2012.

The South is generally known as a hot zone for HIV/AIDS, but a recent study by Eli Rosenberg, assistant professor of epidemiology, breaks down for the first time HIV rates for men who have sex with men (MSM) by state, county, and metropolitan area. The cities with the highest rates included Columbia, S.C.; El Paso, Texas; and Jackson, Miss. In these cities, more than 25 percent of MSM had been diagnosed with HIV, as compared with the national average of 15 percent.

Eli Rosenberg

Eli Rosenberg


"This is really the first time we've been able to examine the HIV infection burden at such fine levels of geography," says Rosenberg.

His study found that six states exceeded the national average of MSM diagnosed with HIV in 2012—and all of them were in the South. Of the top 25 metro areas in terms of prevalence, 21 were south of the Ohio River.

Why the high concentration in the South?

Although Rosenberg's study is purely epidemiologic, he says that the research naturally leads to some educated guesses about the reasons behind the trend. It could be that the South is, by and large, poorer and more rural, with worse public transit and less access to adequate testing or care than other parts of the country. Then there is the cultural and religious bias that abounds in the region—the stigma attached to homosexuality, HIV/AIDS, and race.

he next step, Rosenberg says, is to incorporate other data resources that would break the map down further — by age, education, poverty, and race.

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