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Breaking Down Barriers to Combat HIV

By Candice Ludlow


Memphis, TN – Today, we're going to look at how the medical and faith-based communities have come together with a multi-pronged approach to halt or at least minimize the rates of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and others working to combat this problem, it's imperative to meet the target population where they are -- in the community, at clinics, churches and schools.

Dr. Clarence Davis, Medical Director of Memphis Managed Care, says that there are administrative barriers to medical care for many in the African American communities. There are many reasons for this, he says, including racial differences between those seeking care and those providing it and historical medical abuse, which has caused fear among some in the African American communities.

Because HIV/AIDS is so stigmatized in society, it makes it even more crucial to create trust to get more people tested and treated. That's why churches are becoming involved. The Mid-South is a deeply religious region, so going to the faith-based communities and educating people there in the Church about the dangers associated with high-risk behaviors and how to protect oneself from HIV is plausible as a community defense.

Leaders in HIV education and prevention are also going into the schools to provide HIV education to the youth -- even while the mandated curriculum for sex education in many of the Memphis-Shelby County Schools is abstinence-based.

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has also gotten involved. The Connect to Protect program is a mapping project to help with HIV outreach efforts. The mapping project covers Memphis' crime, active HIV/AIDS cases and new infections, sexually transmitted infections, poverty, and education, coupled with demographic data to determine the "hot spots" in Memphis. Once the hot spots are identified, then they and their community partners can target the group identified as most "at risk."