Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Press Release: New report shows inequalities in North Carolina HIV rates

PRESS RELEASE: March 4, 2015
CONTACT: Lee Storrow
(919) 914-0311

HIV and AIDS have a serious and unequal impact on certain communities in North Carolina, according to a report released today by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
Approximately 36,300 people were living with HIV in the state in 2013, the most recent year for which data are available. North Carolina ranks eighth in the nation for new HIV diagnoses.
Communities of color and gay and bisexual communities are hardest hit. More than 65 percent of North Carolinians living with HIV are African American. Gay and bisexual men make up roughly 60 percent of newly diagnosed cases.
Young men between the ages of 13 and 24 made up one in five people diagnosed with HIV in 2013. Most of these are young men of color.
“Like many public health issues, HIV tends to affect communities without access to comprehensive healthcare, economic security, housing, and other basic human needs,” says Lee Storrow, executive director at the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.
 “Segregated social networks and pervasive stigma exacerbate the issue,” Storrow says. “The good news is, we know what North Carolina needs to do to address this epidemic.”
The state’s report highlights the success of North Carolina’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which serves roughly twenty percent of people living with HIV in the state.
Three-fourths of the clients enrolled in the program qualify as virally suppressed, meaning they are at least 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to a partner and the levels of the virus in their blood are so low as to be undetectable.
The rate of new diagnosis is also holding relatively steady from past years.
With treatment, people diagnosed with HIV can expect to live long and active lives.
Yet more than one quarter of individuals living with HIV in North Carolina did not see a doctor in the last year. Only 36 percent of the overall population living with HIV in the state is virally suppressed.
 “Everyone living with HIV or any other chronic illness should be able to see a doctor when they need to. Our elected leaders must expand Medicaid. That one simple step will extend health insurance to thousands of people living with and at high risk for HIV,” Storrow said.
“Most importantly, this new report is a call to all of us to work for the interests of the communities most affected by this epidemic, to raise HIV as a critical issue in our state, and to stand up for the dignity and rights of North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS.”
The full report is available online at
The North Carolina AIDS Action Network improves the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS and affected communities through outreach and public education, policy advocacy, and community-building to increase visibility and mutual support of people living with HIV/AIDS throughout our state. Read more at

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thank you, Matt Bomer

On Sunday night, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association passed out their 2014 awards for the best in film and television. The Golden Globes are one of the most watched award shows on TV, and Sunday's broadcast was recognized by many for its culturally progressive message, from acceptance speeches that recognized single mothers and the diversity of roles for women this year to Jeffrey Tambor receiving an award for playing a transgender individual on the TV show Transparent.

A highlight of the evening was Matt Bomer’s acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the TV film The Normal Heart. Bomer played a  New York Times reporter who died of AIDS during the 1980’s. (Bomer's speech starts at 2:00.)

During Bomer’s acceptance speech, he thanked his husband and three children for their support during the filming, offering that he knew he was really grumpy at times due to his weight loss needed to depict the character. He recognized his fellow actors and the team that brought The Normal Heart to the screen. And he closed with these words, “To the generation that we lost, and the people we continue to lose to this disease, I just want to say, we love you. And we remember you.”

Too often we fall in a trap of assuming that death from HIV/AIDS is a thing of the past, that the epidemic is something we can put behind us. While we are so lucky to have made the advancements we have, there are still too many people dying from this disease. HIV rates are increasing among gay and bisexual men, and young men and men of color are seeing disproportionate increases.

Thank you, Matt Bomer, for recognizing the people we continue to lose from this disease. We need more leaders, from pop culture to politics, to do the same thing.

Lee Storrow is Executive Director of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Love saves lives: Why marriage equality is an HIV issue

“Marriage equality is legal recognition that you exist. That you can assert your rights, your personhood. It’s a message not only that others respect you but that you are allowed to respect yourself.”

That’s how Quinton, our community organizer, explained what Friday’s court decision meant to him. That decision was a main topic of conversation at our staff meeting last week.

HIV has always been a civil rights issue. The communities most affected by HIV and AIDS in North Carolina face legal and medical systems rooted in classism, racism, homophobia, and sexism, from Jim Crow and the Tuskegee experiments to Amendment One and the failure to expand Medicaid.

Marriage equality is a civil rights victory. It asserts the human dignity of LGBTQ North Carolinians and the right to visibility and love.

In 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to recognize marriage equality, that state’s Supreme Court acknowledged that dignity, love, and celebration were important aspects of legal marriage. They also said this:
For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that marriage has long been termed a civil right.
For many North Carolinians living with HIV and AIDS, their loved ones, and those at high risk, marriage equality brings many of those concrete benefits. Just a few:
  • Access to health insurance through a spouse’s employer, which helps reduce the disparity in insurance coverage between same-sex and opposite-sex couples
  • The ability to make health decisions for an incapacitated partner without needing to make special legal arrangements
  • The right to take 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member, including a spouse if needed, through the Family Medical Leave Act
Marriage equality in other states has also been shown to have non-legal medical benefits:
  • Couples with legally recognized marriages experience lower rates of depression, a mental illness that is at least two times more prevalent among people living with HIV.
  • Individuals - even unmarried LGBTQ people - living in states with marriage equality experience fewer mood disorders and less anxiety. 
And then there’s this: Marriage equality has been shown to lower the rate of new HIV infections. Emory University researchers have found that when states instituted a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, there were four additional HIV infections for every 100,000 people. To put that in perspective, the rate of new HIV diagnoses in North Carolina is 16.4 per 100,0000 people.

HIV stigma is one of the strongest factors influencing whether people get tested, get treatment, and stay in care. Because of the history of the AIDS epidemic and the continuing high rates of HIV among the LGBTQ community, homophobia and HIV stigma are closely linked. They can form a feedback loop of fear, ignorance, and hatred. That loop has a very real cost.

Friday’s marriage equality victory is a huge step forward for the right to visibility, dignity, love, and partnership for all LGBTQ North Carolinas - and it’s a step forward in the fight for the right to visibility, dignity, love, and health for the tens of thousands of North Carolinians living with HIV, their families, and their communities.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Advocate to Governor McCrory: Do the right thing!

If Governor McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly had expanded Medicaid, Glen Cameron - and hundreds of thousands of his fellow North Carolinians - would have health insurance today. But that didn't happen. 

Our elected officials' decision not to expand Medicaid costs more than 1,000 lives in our state each year. It denies a healthy future to thousands of North Carolinians living with HIV and countless others living with the pain and uncertainty of untreated illness.

Glen, a North Carolina AIDS Action Network Speaking Postively Advocate, told his story at Moral Monday in Raleigh on June 2, 2014. Here's what he had to say:

Hello everyone, my name is Glen Cameron and I live in Newton.

I have been HIV Positive for 27 years now, and I am here speaking to you today to put a face on Governor McCrory's refusal to expand Medicaid. I can no longer remain silent.

Since I lost my health insurance three years ago, my simple life has become a complicated maze of asking for charity care and going without care in some situations.

Not having a doctor is scary enough when you have HIV, and just this week I have learned that I have a growth on one of my kidneys that very well may be cancer.

If our Governor and General Assembly had not refused Medicaid expansion I would have insurance today.

So now I stand here to call on the governor of our beloved state to put politics aside and help the people of North Carolina. I ask you, Mr. Governor, and members of the General Assembly, why have you refused Federal funds offered to help our citizens?

 Is it politics?
 Is it spite?
 Is it a lack of basic human compassion?
 What is it?

Please tell us why people of our state, in the richest country on the planet, are denied the health care, the basic dignity, of citizens of any place else in the industrialized world...

Playing politics as usual is playing fast and loose with people's lives. I say Mr. Governor, General Assembly, help your citizens.

Do the right thing!
Do the just thing!


Thank you.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Local women highlight resources for people living with HIV

PRESS RELEASE                                                    CONTACT: Claire Hermann
March 5, 2014                                                                       (919) 533-9677,

The Greene-Pitt Women’s Empowerment Team finalists will host “Get the 411 on HIV medication,” a lunch and learn, this Thursday, March 6th, from 12 – 2 p.m. at the Ledonia Wright Cultural Center at East Carolina University.
The team welcomes all people living with HIV, advocates, health care providers, home healthcare givers, and activists to join them for a free lunch, door prizes, and a panel discussion on HIV medication and the effects of the Affordable Care Act, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and other changes.
This event is being held in advance of National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, which is Monday, March 10.
            The team comprises Esther Ross of Greenville and Debbie Maye of Snow Hill, one of six finalist teams in the statewide North Carolina AIDS Action Network’s Women’s Empowerment TEAM Project.
The Women’s Empowerment TEAM project is made possible by an Empowered Community Grant from AIDS United, a funding collaborative of Alicia Keys and Bristol-Myers Squibb. It is a part of the broader Empowered Campaign with Greater than AIDS.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Carrying the Torch: Why I Volunteer

Guest post by Christina Guichard

The author with John and her son, who is named after him.
It is not often you find someone who changes the way you look at life.  Who wakes you up to life's possibilities and challenges you to be a better person.  Eight years ago I met that person and I am thankful for him every day.  His name is John and he is a Leukemia, Lymphoma, and HIV survivor, and today, he is again battling for his life.  

John is grateful survivor of four forms of cancer and has been living with HIV since 1984.  John is also an honored caregiver who has had the privilege of caring for several loved ones they struggled with their illnesses, including his sister, parents, and partner. After his HIV diagnosis, John became a full time advocate for the needs of people affected by HIV and cancer, and others who suffer from health disparities.  John has changed the lives of thousands of people through public speaking and working with policy-makers to advocate for positive change and inspiring others to become advocates.

Over the past two years, John has been battling Hodgkins Lymphoma and is preparing for a bone marrow transplant.  Since a majority of his time is focused on staying healthy and preparing for upcoming treatments, I told him I wanted to pick up his torch and carry it until he is well enough to advocate again. I know I can't even begin to make as big of impact as my friend John, but I hope to help as many people as possible through volunteerism, advocacy, and love.  

I hope you join me in spreading the love in honor of John and so many others like him.  

They fight every day, and it is time we fight for them too.  

Christina volunteers with NCAAN from her home in North Carolina.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Not Alone

Quinton Harper, NCAAN Community Organizer
When I was a sophomore in college, a good friend who left college and moved back home the previous year confided in me his HIV positive status. 
That year, Black men represented 88% of the new HIV infections among male college students in North Carolina, according to a report by UNC-Chapel Hill researchers. As a Black man reared to fight becoming simply another statistic, what hurt me the most was knowing that that my friend had become a statistic in that report. And that he had gone through this alone.  
I made two promises to him – and I’ve kept them.  I was tested for HIV, and I have worked diligently ever since to make sure that no one close to me has to deal with this alone.
He is my friend. She is my friend’s mom. He was my classmate. He was my uncle. She is an ex-girlfriend’s home girl.  He is an ex-lover.  She was a colleague’s mother. These people, nameless to you, are the reason why I began my work with HIV/AIDS.  They are why I do what I do. HIV has no name, but their reflection increasingly reflects an image similar to mine. They are me.
We are all affected by HIV and AIDS. Our strength is in our collective power; we must continue to fight together.  
After a summer of “having that conversation” with friends, and the recent passing of “a soldier” in the war, my heart is heavy. But what I told my friend as an undergraduate, what I’ve told my brothers over the past years since then, and what I would tell anyone fighting this war is this: “You are not alone.”