The National AIDS Fund (NAF) announced today plans to provide grants and assistance to organizations in nine Southern U.S. states in order to aid them in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the region.

Through the initiative, “Southern Reach,” the NAF will award 20-30 grants, averaging about $45,000 each to organizations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The program is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eight of the top 10 states in the country with the highest percentage of African Americans who have AIDS, and six of the top 10 with the highest percent of women who have AIDS, are in the South.

“HIV/AIDS is more than a disease—it is a symptom of the larger problems of social inequalities and racial/ethnic health disparities,” said Kandy Ferree, National AIDS Fund president and CEO. “Nowhere are such issues more prevalent in the U.S. than in the South.”