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National AIDS march coming to city

Rally in October downtown



Charlotte may not be an easy place for people to live with HIV or AIDS, but it's better than some of the places Rev. Charles King has seen.

"You don't know stigma until you've been to Jackson, Mississippi," he told organizers of a national awareness campaign during an Aug. 23 meeting at First United Methodist Church.

King should know. He's been traveling the country to rally people for an AIDS awareness campaign that's modeled in some respects after the Poor People's March in 1968. One of nine Campaign to End AIDS caravans is expected to stop in Charlotte Oct. 5 and Oct. 6 before heading to Washington, DC, where participants will rally and visit lawmakers.

King told last week's audience, which included Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts and local AIDS advocates, that organizers expect to make waves at the capital. They plan to surround US Department of Health and Human Services with red tape -- literally. Authorities have said that if all of the participants arrive at Congressional offices at once, it will shut down the legislative branch, King said. "Our response is, 'Let them shut it down, 'cause we're coming,'" he said.

Rev. Debbie Warren, president and CEO of the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, said organizers are meeting with Center City Partners and hope to have the Oct. 6 local rally at the corner of Trade and Tryon streets.

In 2004, Mecklenburg County reported 344 people newly infected with HIV. That was less than 2003, when 437 infections were reported, but still marked a 58 percent increase in infection reports since 2000. The disease has hit black residents especially hard, with 66 percent of newly reported cases among African-Americans. White men, however, made up 27 percent of newly reported infections, up from 14 percent in 2000.

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