In January, the HIV/AIDS service community was hit with a shocker. The state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) had reached capacity and future enrollment was being capped. In the weeks since, North Carolina’s ADAP waiting list has grown to around 270, making it the largest waiting list in the nation.

Rev. Debbie Warren, executive director of Charlotte’s Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN), said tight economic times have put strains on community-based AIDS service organizations. Combined with budget cuts and shortfalls, last fall’s closure of Metrolina AIDS Project put RAIN in a spot.

“We’ve seen a very significant increase in clients, particularly with case managment,” Warren told qnotes. “We’ve added case managers to meet this need and we continue to receive requests or referrals every day.”

If you go…

AIDS Walk Charlotte
May 1, 8 a.m.
Gateway Village
800 W. Trade St.

Raleigh AIDS Walk+Ride
May 1, Riders 6 a.m., Walkers Noon
Halifax Mall, N.C. General Assembly

Warren, who is on the steering committee of the North Carolina AIDS Action Network (NCAAN), is concerned about individuals who are unable to access adequate healthcare coverage or lifesaving medicines. Many folks, she said, have lost their jobs due to the economy.

NCAAN is planning strategic outreach to the state legislature and will be lobbying them for more resources. They hope to see more financial allocations set aside for ADAP this year and next. NCAAN is also receiving a grant from the National AIDS Foundation to be used in hiring a statewide community organizer.

RAIN is gearing up for its annual AIDS Walk, the largest HIV/AIDS awareness and fundraising event in the Carolinas. The May 1 event couldn’t come at a better time.

“We’re very hopeful about it,” Warren said. “I’d say the community has been very good to us with many people coming out for instance hosting parties for Dining for Friends back in February.”

Warren said activists spanning all ages and stripes are working had to raise money for the Walk.

“It inspires me and touches me deeply,” she said.

In Raleigh, staff at the Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina (AAS-C) are readying for their AIDS Walk and Ride. That event also takes place May 1. The Raleigh group is also celebrating the hire of a new executive director, John Paul Womble.

A longtime AIDS advocate and educator, Womble was appointed interim executive director after the departure of Jacquelyn Clymore, who now heads up the state’s HIV/AIDS and STD branch in the Department of Health and Human Services. Womble has served as AAS-C’s director of Development since 2003.

Future plans for AAS-C include the establishment of their Access Network of Care, an 11-county initiative to treat HIV-positive individuals with both medical and non-medical care.

“The Alliance has an expert team assembled across the Piedmont region,” Womble said in a release, “always focused on how best to support the thousands of North Carolinians we serve each year. Through our internal Prevention Education, Client Services, Housing, and Faith Ministries programs — in partnership with the extended Access Network of Care co-managed by Wake County Human Services — the Alliance’s full continuum of care continues to be a force in the fight against AIDS to be reckoned with.”

Warren feels more attention should be placed on issues of HIV/AIDS prevention. She told qnotes she’d like to see the type of activism and advocacy she witnessed when she first stepped into HIV work 20 years ago.

“I’d like to extend a call to a return to the activism of the earlier times when I began my AIDS work in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,” she said. “There is a great strain on community-based AIDS organizations in North Carolina today. I extend the call for everyone to get involved in local AIDS organizations whereever they live in North Carolina. Be involved in their events to ensure that organizations remain vibrant within their communities.” : :

This piece appeared in the April 17, 2010-April 30, 2010 print edition.

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.