Florida Times-Union Series Examines Views Toward HIV/AIDS in Deep South
The Florida Times-Union this week published a three-day series that "takes a look at how people infected with HIV ... are perceived in the Deep South," which accounts for 31% of the nation's population and 30% of its AIDS cases. The series also examines the increasing availability of HIV/AIDS services in the region. The following is a summary of each of the articles:
- "HIV in the Deep South: Openness for Victims Comes Slowly": While the South has always been somewhat "intoleran[t]" of people with HIV, the "social stigma associated with AIDS ... has slowly begun to wane," the Times-Union reports. Some people living with HIV/AIDS say that life with the disease is becoming easier, as more medical and legal services are available to HIV-positive residents in urban and rural areas. Allen Thornell, director of the statewide advocacy group Georgia Equality, said, "I think more people will disclose their [HIV] status than they would in the past. But it's still not easily talked about" (Basinger, Florida Times-Union, 6/23).
- "Black Churches Showing Support in HIV/AIDS Fight": An increasing number of HIV-positive Southern African Americans are gaining the support of their local church, an "institution that is critical in molding social attitudes toward the disease." Blacks account for 12% of the nation's population and 54% of new HIV cases. Terje Anderson, director of the National Association of People With AIDS, said, "[T]he African-American community is bearing such a disproportionate impact of this epidemic that churches have had to respond." Many churches are allowing AIDS educators to address their congregations and speak on topics from safe sex to abstinence. But some religious leaders, especially in white churches, are opposed to AIDS education in association with organized religion. Sadie Fields, director of the Christian Coalition of Georgia, said, "We do not have people going into the church to teach gun safety, so why would you have people going into the church to teach sexual safety?" (Basinger, Florida Times-Union, 6/24).
- "Internet Site a Safe Haven for HIV-Positive Romantics": HIV-positive individuals are "finding romance these days starting with the click of a mouse," as one online dating service run by positiveliving.com receives about 100,000 hits each month, according to the last article in the series. The services offer a "safe, secure place to meet others living with a disease that can be difficult to discuss in person," Chad Morrett, Web master and creator of positivepersonals.com, another online dating service, said. NAPWA's Anderson said that a traditional face-to-face date might be "scared off" by an individual's HIV-positive status, or choose to tell others. "One of the things the Internet offers you is that you can put your HIV status out there with an ad, but still be anonymous," Anderson added (Basinger, Florida Times-Union, 6/25).