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Rural America Has Big New Problem, and It's Not Ready

Op-ed warns that HIV cases are going to swamp small communities
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 2, 2019 10:45 AM CST
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Stock photo.   (Getty/Avdeev_80)

(Newser) – In big cities around the US, the numbers are encouraging when it comes to HIV. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and other huge urban centers have reported falling numbers, writes professor Steven W. Thrasher of Northwestern University in a New York Times op-ed. But his isn't a celebratory op-ed. Instead, Thrasher is warning that the opposite trend is on the rise in rural America, which is ill-equipped for the problem. "The conditions that lead to HIV transmission are now intensifying—and rural America is not ready for the coming crisis," he writes. Consider, for example, that West Virginia's Cabell County has seen 80 new HIV infections since early last year.

Much of the issue is fueled by the opioid crisis and the use of shared needles. Combine that with inadequate health resources (getting to a doctor can be tough if you live in a rural West Virginia town, for example), communities devastated economically by deindustrialization, the stigma of sex and drug use, and hostility toward things such as syringe-exchange programs, and you've got big trouble ahead. All of these issues must be addressed, writes Thrasher. When it comes to HIV, "the new major terrain of the crisis right now is in rural America, and it can't be ignored any longer." Read his full column. (Read more HIV stories.)

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