Dr. Laurie Dill pointed to a large map in the hallway of Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama (MAO). It showed the number of people in each county living with HIV or AIDS in 2010. Where the counties pulsed red is the new, rural heart of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Dill pointed to a belt of deep red that cut across Alabama. “That's the Selma to Montgomery march,” she said. “Plus Tuskegee.”
Today the famous route where Martin Luther King Jr. led a civil rights pilgrimage in 1965 runs through a land in the midst of an HIV epidemic.
HIV/AIDS, long thought to be an urban disease, has migrated south to rural communities that lack the money, resources or education to combat the epidemic. In Alabama, one of the hardest-hit areas is the black belt. Originally known for its fertile, cotton-growing soil, the region is one of the poorest in the U.S.
Across the Black Belt, counties like Lowndes, Hale, Greene, Macon, Dallas and Montgomery routinely rank among the highest in new incidence rates for HIV in the state.