We're in HIV/AIDS central

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If you don't know your status or you're not practicing safe sex, do me a favor, take a ride up the elevator of the tallest building in Uptown Charlotte and jump.

You're obviously a risk taker.

You don't care if you live or die.

An article on CNN.com says that the Southeast United States ( not Africa, but America, where we live) has the highest concentration of HIV and AIDS cases.

AIDS experts in the region say that access to health care, especially when it comes to screening, is a major problem in rural communities.

In the Southeast, people with HIV tend to get tested late, after they have become sick, partly because of stigma, said Kathie Hiers, executive director of AIDS Alabama in Birmingham.

"If you look at access to health care and almost any kind of health care report card, the South is the worst," she said.

With little or no public transportation, people in non-metropolitan areas are at a disadvantage when they need to see a particular kind of doctor, experts say. There is also a shortage of doctors who deal with HIV in the region, Hiers said.

Here in Charlotte, our public transportation might be sketchy, but you can hop on a bus or light rail and head to the Metrolina AIDS Project and get test on Friday evenings at 5 p.m. It's free and you get your results instantly.

We're not alone in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to the article, the Northeast has a high rate of the HIV/AIDS as well:

The Northeast also has a heavy burden of HIV/AIDS cases nationally, atlas collaborators said. Other states with high numbers of counties with high HIV prevalence included Florida, New York and South Carolina.

The atlas, the first of its kind to map out HIV and AIDS at the level of counties, launched in time for Saturday's HIV/AIDS Testing Day. The National Institutes of Health is encouraging everyone age 13 to 64 to get tested for HIV as part of routine health care.

Know your status and protect yourself.

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