Commercial Appeal (Memphis) (12.01.11) - Thursday, December
"There was a time when I was growing up when people would only
talk about cancer in hushed tones, and when persons with
mental and physical disabilities were socially shunned and
routinely confronted with discrimination. Awareness,
education, and enlightenment have brought us a long way. ...
"The stigma still associated with HIV/AIDS has historically
covered like a funeral shroud our capacity to step forward and
to reach out. ... For the faith community, mixed messages and
mixed feelings have compounded our incapacity to effectively
minister to the needs of persons with HIV/AIDS.
"As a result, lives are being lost, needlessly. That's why
knowing about HIV, its prevention and treatment is important
to living longer.
"Some people don't know they're infected because they won't
get tested, apprehensive not only of the test results but also
of the consequences of being branded with HIV. Here in Shelby
County, nearly half of the men, women, and teenagers infected
with HIV who do know they have the virus are not seeking the
advanced lifesaving treatment available to them.
"We can do better than this. ... I challenge the Mid-South
region's faith community, and the community at large, to
indeed focus on HIV/AIDS, an issue that simply does not
receive enough attention in our sermons and prayers. ...
"The Memphis Ryan White program, funded by a federal grant and
operated by Shelby County government, provides free medical
and support services for individuals with HIV/AIDS in Shelby,
Fayette, Tipton, Crittenden, DeSoto, Marshall, Tate, and
Tunica counties in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. More
than 17 health care and community-based organizations in the
Mid-South administer care through Ryan White.
"I encourage you to live each day armed with the information
to help persons living with HIV or AIDS to locate the
resources they need. If they know where to find help, they
will live longer."
Visit www.hivmemphis.org for more information.
The author is the public health policy adviser in the Shelby
County Mayor's Office. He is also pastor and CEO of Saint
Andrew AME Church and a former Tennessee commissioner of