Local and Community News
South Carolina: HIV Crusader Rejects Stigma; Program Leader Isn't Shy About Urging People to Be Tested
July 3, 2003
Vivian Clark is building trust -- one handful of condoms at a time. As project coordinator of the community HIV testing program with the South Carolina African-American HIV/AIDS Council, it is her job to educate people about the disease and urge them to get tested. In South Carolina, which ranked ninth in the nation in the rate of AIDS cases in 2001, this is a big job. In 2000, 78 percent of newly reported HIV cases in South Carolina were among African Americans.
On a recent scorching Wednesday afternoon, Clark and some volunteers set up a testing site under a tent at a gas station. To attract people, a folding table is piled high with items like toasters and toiletries. The items will be raffled off among the people who get tested. Behind the goodies are four tables set up for pre-test counseling. Once the results come back, Clark will return to share them.
"Every time I'm here I get a positive," Clark said over the din of R&B music blaring from the council's green minivan. "We're doing free HIV testing over there," she tells a woman in overalls. The woman listens to the rest of Clark's spiel, then goes into the store. A few minutes later, she is sitting under the tent, getting tested.
Many people were not comfortable talking about HIV when Clark began outreach in 1999. "There was a stigma attached to talking to me," she said. "They'd say, 'The AIDS lady, she's lookin' for someone,'" meaning they assumed whoever Clark was looking for must be HIV-positive. That is why she sets up testing sites out in the open for the world to see. She envisions a future where HIV testing is done as casually as blood pressure screening.
State (Columbia, S.C.)
06.27.03; Jaymi Freiden
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.