IF ONLY we had the science, we used to say. During the 1980s and 1990s, when nearly half a million Americans died from a virus that no one knew how to stop, we pleaded for a scientific advancement that could end the HIV epidemic.
Today we have the science. Medicine can treat HIV until it reaches undetectable and un-transmittable levels, and it can prevent new cases, too. We have the tools to end the HIV epidemic.
Heartbreak lingers in the hope, however. We’re having a hard time getting these medications to the people who need them. The science is there; the access and awareness are not.
On the fourth floor of the Children and Family Services Center in uptown, the employees of RAIN fight to change that. They see the theoretical end of HIV and are supporting Mecklenburg County in its goal to eliminate all new HIV infections in Charlotte by the end of 2020.
It’s a tough mission. HIV rates in Mecklenburg County are among the highest in the nation, with ages 20-24 representing a growing percentage of new transmissions. To counter the trend, RAIN runs the Empowering Positive Youth (EPY) program, the only HIV peer mentorship program of its kind in the Carolinas, partnering young people who have already navigated an HIV diagnosis with others who have recently gotten one.