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Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HIV/AIDS prevention success stories featured at Indiana University conference

April 14, 2009

Editors: The inaugural Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award will be given to Jeanne White Ginder, mother of national AIDS education advocate Ryan White, on Saturday, April 18, at 1 p.m. in the Tudor Room of the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E. Seventh St. Ginder will discuss Ryan White's legacy at 11:15 a.m. in the IMU's Frangipani Room. For more information about the conference, contact William Yarber at 812-855-7974 and

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Successful programs for preventing AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in rural communities nationwide will be center stage at Indiana University Bloomington during the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention's sixth national conference, taking place April 16-18.

Jeanne White Ginder

Jeanne White Ginder

Drawing presenters and attendees from 33 states, the biennial conference offers prevention specialists from local and state health departments and community-based organizations along with university researchers the opportunity to hear firsthand about effective strategies and efforts.

People diagnosed with AIDS who live in rural areas now account for 8 percent of all cases nationwide, up from 5 percent in 1996. Despite these growing numbers, most AIDS control strategies have focused on urban communities.

"More than 51,000 cases of AIDS have occurred in rural America -- a magnitude that must be acknowledged," said RCAP senior director William L. Yarber, professor in the Department of Applied Health Science at IU Bloomington. "Yet, many American rural communities have a false sense of security because of this relatively low incidence of HIV/STD in contrast to urban areas. This sense of security is buoyed by denial of the presence of HIV/AIDS because stigma and homophobia force many persons infected with HIV into the shadows of rural communities. Community denial then becomes the fuel of complacency. This complacency needs to be replaced with increased public awareness, the development of effective prevention interventions, and efforts to reduce stigma -- this is the challenge of rural HIV/STD prevention specialists."

Edwin Sanders

Rev. Edwin Sanders II

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Conference presenters -- discussing initiatives from Maine to Oklahoma, and Florida to Alaska -- will talk about the many populations affected by HIV, AIDS and other STDs in rural America, groups including African-American men, men who have sex with men, women who are at high risk of acquiring the diseases, and Native Americans.

"We at IU are situated in a part of the state that is largely rural and experiencing many of the unique challenges that are at the center of RCAP's work," said Robert M. Goodman, dean of the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. "The School of HPER's mission is health promotion, both in Indiana and beyond the state's borders, as exemplified by the diverse group of prevention specialists participating in this year's conference. I applaud Dr. Yarber and the center for providing national leadership and resources for combating HIV/STDs in these underserved communities."

A highlight of the conference will be the presentation of the inaugural Ryan White Distinguished Leadership Award, given to White's mother, Jeanne White Ginder. Ryan White acquired HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from a tainted treatment for hemophelia as a teenager in Indiana and went on to become a nationally known advocate for AIDS research and awareness before his death in 1990.

William Yarber

William Yarber

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Congress passed the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, a federally funded program that improves the availability of care for low-income, uninsured and under-insured people with AIDS.

"One of our native sons made such a powerful contribution to AIDS awareness efforts that Congress passed an act in his name that has helped hundreds of thousands of people get medical care," Yarber said. "Our center has wanted to recognize outstanding leadership, and we thought it was both fitting to name the award for Ryan White and to present the inaugural award to his mother, who continues to be an effective spokesperson for AIDS prevention and for the rights of individuals and families impacted by HIV/AIDS."

The award and keynote address for the conference will be presented on Saturday, April 18, during the luncheon from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Tudor Room in the Indiana Memorial Union, 900 E.. Seventh St. Before the luncheon, Ginder will discuss "The Legacy of Ryan White" at 11:15 a.m. in the Frangipani Room of the IMU.

The keynote address will be delivered by Rev. Edwin C. Sanders, II, Senior Servant, Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tenn. Sanders' speech is titled "Spirituality as an essential component of effective HIV/STD prevention, education and treatment initiatives."

Robert Goodman

Robert Goodman

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Another highlight of the conference will be the release of Tearing Down Fences: HIV/STD Prevention in Rural America.

Yarber said the book is the first publication to pull together information about prevention programs used in rural communities across the country. The book highlights model programs, offers suggestions for dealing with HIV and STD problems in rural communities and provides information about education and testing, how to respond to new reports of infections, and other matters critical to prevention efforts.

Yarber said people living in rural areas -- despite bucolic stereotypes -- are not immune to such problems as drug and alcohol use and unsafe sexual behaviors seen in urban areas. He said issues such as stigma, isolation, limited resources and a wide range of cultural issues require unique and creative approaches to prevention efforts in rural areas. The book was prepared by the Rural HIV/STD Prevention Work Group, organized by RCAP.

In a continuing effort to use technology to help bridge the isolation and other challenges to prevention efforts, conference organizers are encouraging conference attendees to sign up for the CDC National Prevention Information Network's Mobile Messaging Initiative. The pilot initiative will allow participants to receive a limited number of text messages before, during, and immediately after the conference. The text messages will include conference-related activities that are vital in determining the future use of this form of communication for the CDC.

About the Rural Center for AIDS/HIV Prevention

RCAP, funded in part by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a joint project of IU, the University of Colorado and the University of Kentucky, and is headquartered at IU. The center, the only one of its type in the U.S., was created in 1994 to promote HIV/STD prevention in rural America, with the goal of reducing HIV/STD incidence. It serves as an information resource for rural prevention specialists nationwide through its fact sheets, monthly prevention bulletins, national listserv network, and biennial conference, and by conducting research on risk behavior in rural communities.

For a conference program, visit Program2.pdf. To register for the conference, visit