Ashamed to Die

Silence, Denial, and the AIDS Epidemic in the South

By Andrew J. Skerritt
(Lawrence Hill Books, Hardcover, 9781569768143, 306pp.)

Publication Date: November 2011

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Description

Even as the tragic African AIDS epidemic fills the headlines, the United States has failed to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in the South, where people are dying because of a shame that leads to silence. In Ashamed to Die, author Andrew J. Skerritt focuses on a small town in South Carolina, a microcosm of this national tragedy, and examines how the tenacious disease ravaged the black community. The heartbreak of America’s failure comes alive through Carolyn, a wild child whose rebellion coincided with the advent of AIDS; Girard, a dreadlocked bank executive; Nita, a young woman searching for love; and others whose moving stories reveal hard truths about the consequences of our nation’s neglect.

             These are impoverished people who struggled with racial oppression for generations but whose lives were dramatically changed by the civil rights movement. Sadly, their hard-won freedoms were subverted by the problems arising from overwhelming poverty and ingrained inequities--drugs, illicit sex, despair, and, finally, death from AIDS. Skerritt contends that taboos about love, race, and sexuality—combined with Southern conservatism, white privilege, and black oppression—continue to create an unacceptable death toll and that, despite AIDS awareness programs and medical breakthroughs, the epidemic is not lessening in the Deep South.

            This true story of how persons of faith, enduring love, and limitless forgiveness can inspire others is not only a call to action and awareness but also a guide for poor communities facing a public health threat burdened with conflicting moral and social consequences.

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