HIV diagnosis and presentation to appropriate medical care during early stages of disease has substantial clinical and public health benefits. However, a large proportion of HIV-infected Americans experience diagnosis and treatment related delays. Prior research evaluating barriers to early HIV diagnosis and care presentation have been published primarily from large East and West coast urban centers. Therefore, predictors of delayed presentation to HIV care identified by these studies may not be generalizable to the South where infected persons are increasingly non-white, female, poor, non-urban, and possibly exposed to HIV heterosexually. We review here the benefits conferred by HIV care, descriptive epidemiology of delayed HIV diagnosis and care, and potential barriers to early medical care with special reference to conditions prevalent in the South. © 2006 Taylor & Francis.