CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With over 20 years of service to the community, the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) has been at the forefront in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. And, it has done so with a vast array of people from varied walks of life, as well as a plethora of services to meet the needs of those it serves.
Its founder, president and CEO, Rev. Debbie C. Warren, spearheaded the initiative in 1992 and has championed its work ever since.
Even with the outpouring of support, over the past two decades, however, Warren said, “North Carolina is tremendously underserved in some areas. It’s very difficult to find safe, affordable housing and mental health services for our clients. Dental and vision services are also lacking. Transportation is a huge issue for clients, as funding has been reduced in recent years.”
Over the years, the complexion of the agency has changed and adapted to the needs of their client base.
“In many respects, RAIN is a completely different organization from how it started 21 years ago,” Warren said. “We grew out of all-volunteer efforts of members of the faith community to care for people who were very sick, frail and dying from AIDS.”
RAIN attempts to stay on the cutting edge of research when implementing its services.
“We stay current with HIV advocacy efforts,” Warren said. “Each year we take HIV leaders to Raleigh to meet with members of the N.C. General Assembly. Some years we’ve been able to take HIV-positive people to visit members of Congress in D.C. I am proud to be a founding member of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN). Last year, we worked with AIDS United and NCAAN to host an HIV-forum during the Democratic National Convention. Former White House staffer Jeff Crowley and two members of Congress spoke to 80 advocates.”
The need for advocacyis more important than ever with gaps created due to sequestration and the loss of Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program funding and other government support. Also, Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders in North Carolina did not opt for Medicaid expansion. There is uncertainty on how Ryan White will be funded when the Affordable Care Act rolls out. Other cuts to the state budget can hamper RAIN’s efforts with regard to the possible $8 million ax to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
All this is extremely disconcerting as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in December 2012 that new infections had risen by 22 percent for young gay men and 6,000 gay men were dying with AIDS annually.
“If HIV continues at current rates, the CDC says more than half of college-aged gay men will have HIV by the time they’re 50,” Warren warned. “For someone who’s worked in HIV for 22 years, I find that sobering. HIV Advocacy has to be integrated with our community’s efforts if we want the generations coming behind us to experience all the fullness that life has to offer — health, as well as full acknowledgement of our relationships.”
For more information, to make a contribution or to volunteer, call 704-372-7246, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit carolinarain.org. : :