As you may remember, we launched in December, “Red Pump Stories”, an initiative created to document the narratives, struggles, and successes of women living with or affected by HIV/AIDS. To continue this exciting and new initiative, we would like to share the following interview conducted with Rev. Deborah C. Warren, President and CEO of the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN), a community created to transform lives by promoting respect and dignity for all people touched by HIV through compassionate care, education and leadership development. Rev. Warren is also a recipient of the 2014 Red Pump Award, which she received at the 6th Annual Red Pump/Red Tie Affair in Charlotte, NC.
Since 1992, RAIN has:
• Provided more than 150,000 hours of service to over 1,100 persons with HIV and AIDS and their loved ones, and trained over 5,000 volunteers.
• Provided HIV/AIDS prevention education and awareness programs to more than 50,000 people.
• Coordinated programs in over 100 congregations from 20 different denominations and faith traditions, in13 counties in North and South Carolina.
We invite you to take a look below to learn more about RAIN, Rev. Warren and why she #RockstheRedPump!
6 Ways Rev. Warren Sprinkles RAIN into HIV/AIDS:
- Why do you Rock the Red Pump?
Oh, my soul! I just had to chuckle when I heard this question. I don’t think of myself as someone who rocks too much of anything, but if I could rock the Red Pump by my attitude and commitment and compassion, I think that would definitely be me.
- What is your personal connection to HIV and would you consider yourself an HIV/AIDS activist?
When I was a hospital Chaplain in the early 90’s, I met many people who were very sick with AIDS who had no one to help them when they went home from the hospital. They needed help with practical things like picking up food and medicine. They were especially afraid of dying alone and needed friendship and companionship. That’s when I started forming congregation-based AIDS CareTeams and assigning the teams to isolated people with AIDS. It was life changing for me, for the people with AIDS and for the volunteers.
I definitely consider myself an HIV Activist. I’ve been working in HIV/AIDS since 1992 and you can’t care for people HIV-positive people without becoming an advocate and speaking out about the policies and injustices that impact people’s daily lives and their ability to have a stable, healthy life.
- Why is it important for women to speak openly about HIV and the issues that surround this condition?
It will save women’s lives pure and simple. Do you realize that 70% of Americans with HIV don’t have the virus under control and that many are no longer receiving treatment? This information was revealed in a CDC study released just before World AIDS Day last year. The Red Pump’s emphasis on prevention, testing and knowing your status is going to help many women live a long and healthy life.
- After receiving an honorary award from The Red Pump Project for the great work RAIN has done for the HIV community, what are you most proud of when it comes to the many programs and services the organization offers?
I’m proud of so many things. I’m proud of the trust our community has in RAIN. I’m proud of our longevity and the many compassionate people who’ve come to volunteer or work at RAIN through the years. I’m proud of the leadership of our HIV-positive staff members. Mostly, I’m proud of the work we do every day to help people find the stability to maintain treatment and achieve viral suppression. RAIN restores hope. It doesn’t get any better than that.
- Do you believe stigma exists towards people living with HIV/AIDS? What actions do you fight this stigma?
Oh, most definitely. I see that first hand every day and it causes so much suffering. We have to talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. We have to speak up and not tolerate misinformed, judgmental comments. We have to remind people of our various faith traditions that call us to create a more just and loving world. We have to tell stories about people living with HIV. We have to encourage HIV-positive people to take up their own leadership and tell their stories.
- How do you use social media or blogging to fight against HIV/AIDS? Have you supported other individuals who share their story via social media? If so, would you mind sharing who they are?
I primarily use Facebook – both with RAIN and my own personal page. I share snippets of information, promote events, etc. Yes, former RAIN staff members and Red Pump Awardee, Dee Dee Richardson. I’m a huge fan of Dee Dee.