HIV/AIDS is typically imagined to be a disease impacting those inhabiting urban areas. Media news outlets, dramas, television/movies and even literature are all responsible for this perception. HIV/AIDS, however, is just as pernicious and potentially fatal to rural citizens as it is to their city-dwelling counterparts. In fact, rural residents living with HIV/AIDS have the added difficulty of a lack or utter non-existence of formal services or support for those living with the disease.
Since having initially manifested itself in urban areas, HIV/AIDS has extended its reach to rural America. Communities of color in rural areas of the South bear the brunt of the disease and thus are at greatest risk. The reality of rural geography, community perceptions/stigma, and little to no access to health care and social services create special challenges for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS in rural areas.
According to a 2004 study conducted by the National Rural Health Association, “the Southeast Region bears the highest burden of the rural epidemic. More than half of rural AIDS cases are in the South, even though just 35% of the nation’s population lives there.” Additionally, “Rural AIDS cases are disproportionately high among African Americans and Hispanics. Nearly 60 percent of AIDS cases reported in rural areas in 2003 were among African Americans and Hispanics”.
Fortunately, Serenity Inc., a nonprofit located in the Petersburg-Crater area, is devoted to both reducing HIV/AIDS transmission in the region in addition mentoring those infected and affected by the disease and even education/preventative measures for those who may be at risk. Serenity Inc. currently has grants targeting people living with HIV/AIDS and persons with multiple risk factors. One of the grants is entitled “ Empowering Communities for Life”. This grant targets men identifying as gay living in rural areas, such as Waverly, Emporia and other areas that may not be classically categorized as ‘rural’ , such as Petersburg and Hopewell. Its intent is to target those who are not HIV/AIDS positive and thus provide strategies to prevent becoming HIV Positive.