Alabama, The United States of America
Alabama, a largely rural state, is in poor shape — literally. Its population of about 4,900,000, 68.4% white and 26.5% black, has a poverty rate of 17% (sixth highest in the US, and far above the national rate).
With poverty and racism it has huge health problems. All important STDs are highest among blacks and Hispanics.
14,653 persons were known to have HIV in 2018, 657 newly diagnosed — 13.4 per 100,000, but 36.7 per 100,000 for blacks. These are undercounts. Alabama provided medication for only 1,156 of them. Within the black community 51% of newly Hiv infections occur among men who have sex with men (MSM). Stigma against LGBTQ persons generally is high. Many of these individuals do not identify themselves as gay or bisexual.Young black males 15 to 29 years old have been identified as a high-risk group. Black females are approximately 9 times more likely to become infected with HIV than white females. The state began a social media campaign to raise HIV awareness and lower stigma which appears to have died in 2017. Public education in Alabama is poor.
The Hub, Birmingham – 1
The men and women of Aids Alabama Support Group in Birmingham meet regularly. It is a diverse but close-knit club. They support each other, help each other, inspire each other, laugh with each other and perhaps most importantly; together they make a stand against the strong stigma that is present in Alabama.
We meet the group on a pleasant afternoon at their meeting place on the outskirts of Birmingham’s centre. The ice is quickly broken. They share their stories with great enthusiasm. Their HIV infection was not easy for any one of them. But they have all found the strength to give it a place and to deal with it. Tony, Deborah, Xytarius, Mattie, Alvin, Gigi and Marvin’s life stories – pure inspiration.
Mattie, Tony, Deborah, Alin, Xytarius, Glenda and Marvin creating change in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo’s by Vincent van den Hoogen