The South has a deep relationship with medical mistrust. In 1932, Macon County, Alabama, became home to the "U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee" which is known as the Syphilis Experiment. This non-therapeutic study of the progress of untreated syphilis in human beings recruited poor African-American men living in rural Tuskegee and Macon County. The men were uninformed of their syphilis status and untreated for the disease without their informed consent. This experiment, which didn't end until 1972, contributed to generational health problems, as well as ill feelings.
Today, the South is at the epicenter of an HIV epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 52 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the nation are in the South. This is 36 percent higher than the national average.
Biomedical advances in HIV prevention and care, such as PrEP, PEP and Treatment as Prevention, will not be fully realized if the African American community questions the motives of public health programs. "We must work together, those in both private and public health, to identify various strategies including investments that build trust. No one entity can rebuild that trust alone" says Aquarius Gilmer, Director, Government Affairs & Advocacy, SAC.
In April, Lifting the Veil on HIV convened a think tank to develop solutions for addressing the medical mistrust that resulted from the U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee, and address the impact that mistrust is having on the fight against the Southern HIV epidemic.