More than 25,000 people are gathering in Washington, D.C. this week for the 19thAnnual International AIDS Conference. It’s the first time in more than 20 years that the U.S. will host the conference.
“The reason that the U.S. could not have the conference is because we had a ban on allowing people who are HIV-positive into the United States,” says Kathie Hiers, CEO of AIDS Alabama. “And we were one of the few countries that had that ban.”
AIDS Alabama will be attending this week’s conference. It’s a non-profit organization that works to provide housing and supportive services for those with HIV/AIDS in Alabama.
“Our domestic epidemic here in the U.S. is southern. Half of the epidemic now is in the south and I can assure you we don’t get half the resources either from the federal government or from the private sector,” says Hiers.
Hiers says half of the new HIV infections are in the south. That’s about 900 to 1,000 new infections each year.
But, I find that frustrating because HIV is a preventable disease and we’re obviously not doing a good enough job getting people to protect themselves,” says Hiers.
Hiers says AIDS Alabama is already spreading the word before they even arrive. Advertisements featuring their testing van are plastered all over metro stations and buses in Washington, D.C.