Viewpoint

HIV worse in South than elsewhere in the nation

From the Rev. Deborah C. Warren, president and CEO of RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network):

The South is now the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this country. We have the highest number of adults and adolescents living with and dying from AIDS. (Southern States Manifesto: Update 2008). The South does not get the attention or funding to adequately address prevention, treatment care and housing.

Our federal government and many faith-based denominations have galvanized to meet the needs of poor nations devastated by AIDS. I salute these efforts and am critically aware that our own country needs the same level of commitment, concern and funding for our Southern region, where the AIDS epidemic is as severe as in parts of Africa.

It's been my privilege to spend the past 17 years in Charlotte as the founding CEO of Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN). I'm proud to be a Southerner, and I have spent my entire professional career in the two Carolinas. My work in AIDS is guided by the sacred texts I learned as a child in our family's church in Tennessee. I have experienced other clergy and congregational leaders' compassionate response to HIV/AIDS.

The South needs more. This is a critical time to raise awareness of community and political leaders. Together we can influence policies that provide medical treatment and supportive services for our neighbors who need it most.

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