Scroll To Top

Western Maryland
HIV support group targets rural residents

Western Maryland
HIV support group targets rural residents

After operating discreetly for the past two years, Positive Influence, a support group for HIV-positive people in Maryland's Frederick and Washington counties, went public with an open house last month. The nonprofit group, which had met at a church in rural Middletown, Md., opened new headquarters in the basement of Flowers by Jim on East Patrick Street. The group is determined to overcome the stigma HIV-positive people face, especially in rural areas, according to Positive Influence's Wes Andrews. "The stigma plays into all of this," Andrews said. "People don't want to get tested because they figure, 'Everyone will think I'm gay.'"

At the end of 2003, Maryland had 27,504 HIV-positive residents, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's most recent annual report. Until 1990, sex between men was the most common form of transmission, but since 1991, injection drug use has accounted for the most transmissions. Since 1997, according to the report, heterosexual activity has been the state's second most common mode of exposure.

Unlike in Baltimore, where many organizations offer HIV counseling and services, HIV-positive people in rural areas find little help outside the county health department. Positive Influence, founded in 2002 by four HIV-positive men, still feels the pressure of prejudice. The two founders who remain alive and healthy refused to be interviewed, and another member made comments on condition of anonymity. (AP)

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Outtraveler Staff