A recent report released by the University of Toronto in Canada found that there is a broad range of stigmas surrounding women who are HIV positive. Females who have this disease say that they have experienced discrimination associated with their gender, race, sexual orientation and connection to sex work. In response to this and other surveys, a pastor in one South Carolina town is working to combat HIV prejudice, according to CNN.
Pastor Brenda Byrth of Dorchester is working to encourage greater communication between residents of her rural community, in an effort to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) from spreading. Her influence is important, especially considering that fear of religious persecution is one thing that keeps people in many small towns from being open about their sexual health matters, the news provider reports. Byrth states that most people won’t even admit that their loved ones have the disease, and their denial can lead to lives being lost.
“They say, ‘Oh, the doctor doesn’t know what he has.’ They know, and the doctor knows,” said Byrth, quoted by CNN. “They keep it to themselves, and they don’t take care of themselves. [By the time] it gets bad and they go to the hospital, you can’t reverse it.”
Byrth runs HIV/AIDS support groups in her area, and recently bought a house that will serve as a safe place for people with the infection.