Chelsea Gulden (right) is busy at work on a project at RAIN. (Photo Credit: RAIN)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Chelsea Gulden, a longtime HIV advocate and service provider, will become president and CEO of RAIN, following the retirement of the organization’s founder, president and CEO Debbie Warren in January 2021.

Gulden, who currently serves as vice president of Operations at RAIN, joined the organization in 2010 after creating and implementing Empowering Positive Youth (EPY), the first comprehensive program serving HIV positive youth in North Carolina. EPY regularly receives national attention for its peer leadership model. The program has served more than 1,000 positive youth through individual case management and support groups.

“Through all of my years volunteering with RAIN, I’ve seen Chelsea Gulden become a respected leader when it comes to HIV and the Charlotte community,” said Robert Dogens, a board Member of Equality North Carolina, past RAIN board treasurer and retired Wells Fargo executive. “She is recognized on a national level for her expertise and knowledge. Chelsea is ready to lead RAIN into the future, and I am pleased to see her hard work rewarded.” Gulden began working in the HIV service sector shortly after her own diagnosis. She is an expert in HIV service delivery, programming and prevention. She brings 15 years of experience in coordinating programs for optimal health.

“I am deeply humbled to be selected as President and CEO of RAIN,” Gulden shared. “It’s an honor to follow the legacy of Debbie Warren, a mentor and a friend. RAIN is a pillar in the Charlotte community, and my life. With ongoing medical advances, an amazing staff, board, and a host of volunteers at my side, we are ready to fulfill RAIN’s mission and work towards ending the HIV epidemic. I know we can continue to touch the lives of those most impacted by HIV and help everyone live fully, with or without HIV.”

Gulden has spoken at meetings for National Institutes of Health and at the National Ryan White HIV Care and Treatment Conference, and was a panelist on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2006. She is currently co-chair of the Ryan White HIV Planning Body for Anson, Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg, Union and York counties.

Additionally, Gulden has conducted prevention work in Ghana and participated in the U.S. Executive Summary Report advocating for comprehensive sexual education in schools.

“I have had the pleasure of working with Chelsea for over 15 years and thus witnessing first hand her dedication, compassion and vision for engaging communities and addressing health inequities in both research and care,” said Lisa Hightow-Wideman, M.D., M.Ph., professor of Medicine and Health Behavior, Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “She has been an inspiring collaborator and I can think of no one else more qualified to lead RAIN into the 21st century.” Gulden holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research focused on the intersection of intimate partner violence and HIV. She has additional training in trauma informed care.

In addition to Gulden’s new title and duties, two RAIN staffers will take on new roles in 2021. Darlena Blackwell, currently the medical case manager, will be elevated to director of Client Relations. Johnny Wilson, the peer retention specialist, will be elevated to director of Outreach.


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Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.