Resource Logo
CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

SOUTH CAROLINA: Pastor Fights HIV Stigma in Southern Town




 

CNN.com (11.28.11) - Friday, December 02, 2011

Dorchester, S.C., population 2,593, is typical of the rural towns found across the Southeast, the US region with the highest rate of diagnosed AIDS cases: 9.2 per 100,000 people. Rural areas like this have been particularly hard-hit by the epidemic, primarily because of stigma, poor education, and lack of funding.

Dr. Leandro A. Mena, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said AIDS-related stigma begins with sex. Many socially conservative Southerners find it difficult to talk openly about sex with their children, let alone with strangers. "That's one of the first barriers to really having an open discussion about how HIV is transmitted," said Mena.

Religion can be another barrier. Mena noted the negative associations some feel about drug use, premarital sex or homosexuality. "Imagine the challenge that this may present in terms of HIV prevention. How can you persuade someone - who believes that no matter what you do, in the end you're going to hell - that you have to do something to protect yourself?" he asked.

At Dorchester's Bibleway Holiness Church, Pastor Brenda Byrth conducts HIV/AIDS awareness meetings. About 10 to 12 people typically attend - a good turnout for a congregation of 25, she said, but also an indication of AIDS' widespread impact in this rural setting.

Tommy Terry attended Byrth's most recent meeting, which only attracted four congregants. Terry lost his partner of 10 years to AIDS in 2005, and was unable to find a nearby pastor willing to pray for the man. "When somebody has AIDS, they just walk away from you," Terry observed. "They don't want nothing to do with you."



 


Copyright © 2011 -CDC Prevention News Update, Publisher. All rights reserved to Information, Inc., Bethesda, MD. The CDC National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention provides the following information as a public service only. Providing synopses of key scientific articles and lay media reports on HIV/AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases and tuberculosis does not constitute CDC endorsement. This daily update also includes information from CDC and other government agencies, such as background on Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) articles, fact sheets, press releases and announcements. Reproduction of this text is encouraged; however, copies may not be sold, and the CDC HIV/STD/TB Prevention News Update should be cited as the source of the information. Contact the sources of the articles abstracted below for full texts of the articles.



Information in this article was accurate in December 2, 2011. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.