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Johnson, other Southern lawmakers to probe region’s nation-high HIV infection rate

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A bipartisan group of Dixie Congressional lawmakers will host a pair of roundtables on Tuesday to probe the region’s alarming HIV/AIDS infection rates.

Nine of the ten states in which new occurrences of HIV/AIDS are most common are concentrated in the South. With more than 2,000 new cases of infection in 2010, Georgia is among them: the Peach State ranked sixth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent estimates.

Even still, the region claims a disproportionately low number of HIV specialists relative to traditional epicenters.

Tomorrow four lawmakers–two from each chamber, both of different parties–will co-host complimentary forums to examine that dovetailing dynamic.

Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson will be among them.

“Make no mistake — HIV/AIDS is devastating communities of color, women and young gay and bisexual men in the U.S., especially in the South,” the Lithonia Democrat said Monday. “We don’t want this to grow like it did silently in the late ’70s and early ’80s with gay men, and people were dying unnecessarily because there had been n attention paid to the rising numbers.”

Johnson’s co-sponsors include Republicans Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

- James Richardson