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Commentary & Opinion

Tennessee: Time to Move Past Silence, Shame of AIDS

December 15, 2011

"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 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 health.

Back to other news for December 2011

Adapted from:
Commercial Appeal (Memphis)
12.01.2011; The Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
Spotlight Series: HIV Stigma & Discrimination
What Does HIV/AIDS Stigma Look Like in Your Life?
More News on HIV Stigma and Discrimination

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