James W. (Jim) Rainey

Publisher , The Opelika-Auburn News

Opelika, AL

[AL-E 0101]

I was a reporter, early on, in the AIDS epidemic, covering some of that.

Again, this was in West Tennessee. And [I] went to live for a couple of weeks with a young couple, with children, who were dying. They were in the later stages of AIDS. And it was right around Christmas time.

And one of the things that we did in our reporting was that we found that a great deal of the funding, for AIDS education, had taken place in major metro areas. But that the federal government was not spending any money, almost, in the rural areas. And this couple suffered a great deal of discrimination – a really horrific time for them – and had been kicked out of their church; their kids had been ostracized, and picked on at school.

And through reporting on what happened with them – the lack of funding and the lack of education – it led to many programs and many local churches leading to educational programs where, really, the region decided that: “Hey, you know what? This isn’t right. These people are not being treated with care and kindness that they deserve, and there are many others out there.”

And it really exposed how far-reaching this epidemic really was, and that it was growing, and that it was growing in their midst, and people were really ignorant of that fact.

And when it was – the light of day was shined down upon that – it led to a real reaction not only of local governments but local churches, local citizen leaders who stepped up to the plate, and it led to a real change throughout that region of Tennessee. And that was –- really made me feel like what we were doing really mattered.