Stigma in the South: The Fight for Prevention and Care in the United States

DECEMBER 2006 • Issue 2

A man dies of AIDS without ever being tested, because he prefers to die with the support of his family thinking he was dying of cancer. Others drive hours for doctor visits where nobody knows them, getting substandard care because they can’t see their own doctor during an emergency. People die on waiting lists for AIDS drugs without widespread public outcry for the state to fork over funds to provide treatment to all.

“The effect of stigma has a huge impact on who will get testing and care,” explains Robert Greenwald, director of the Treatment Access Extension Project (TAEP).

“In Massachusetts, I can tell people, ‘Get tested. Get care. We’ve created as safe an environment as possible,’” Greenwald says. “We have strict confidentiality laws, no criminalization of HIV transmission, no mandatory partner notification, and strong anti-discrimination laws.”

In other areas of the country, especially in the South, the same cannot be said – and Greenwald believes that combating stigma at the community and policy level are both important components of expanding access to care. TAEP is arming local leaders with practical strategies to organize around stigma in order to build the power to increase treatment and care. You can reach them through their website, where you can also find a state-level toolkits for fighting Medicaid cuts, get help picking a Medicare Part D plan, and more.

Here are some of the strong and growing groups standing up to stigma in the South:

AIDS Action in Mississippi
Their current campaign is a fight for access to housing for people with HIV/AIDS
Jessica Mardis: 601-672-6574
Valencia Robinson: 601-672-6564

North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition
This state-wide coalition fights stigma against drug users,
provides training on harm reduction services and strategies, and advocates for the state to allow pilot
syringe exchange programs.
Thelma Wright: (336) 454-5632
Les Strayhorn: (336) 586-0062

Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN, Charlotte, NC)
RAIN engages the religious community in conversations about HIV/AIDS, encouraging a theology of love and care for all persons and affirming their inherent worth and dignity in the face of social structures and policies that too often overlook or deny their needs.
Rev. Deborah C. Warren: 704-372-7246
Rev. Amy E. Brooks: 704-372-7246

South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS (SC-c2ea)
SC-c2EA is demanding an end to waiting lists for AIDS
drugs, as four people have already died on the ADAP waiting list this fall.
Karen Bates: 803-750-5259

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Filed under African Americans, Solidarity Project, Southern United States, stigma, treatment access, Uncategorized

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