CHARLOTTE -- Mecklenberg County's new health director is receiving backlash for comments made about the county's HIV rate.
The comments were made at a meeting on October 24.
When responding to a question about the HIV rate, she said, "Part of it is location. In cities like Charlotte, which draws a lot of people in, it can be a party town. It can be a place where people come in, enjoy themselves, for the weekend and then leave -- but leave stuff behind."
"Gibbie was referring to events in large metropolitan areas that attract crowds of residents and visitors where higher-risk behavior could occur. She has direct knowledge of these in Wake County and along the east coast, and has heard anecdotally that they also occur in Mecklenburg County. Public Health will continue working with residents and visitors to encourage them to protect themselves and others." Dena Diorio, Mecklenburg County Manager.
LGBT advocacy group, MeckPac, is calling on Diorio and Harris to both apologize.
Their statement reads in part: "Harris’ and Diorio’s comments are stigmatizing and harmful; they also fuel stereotypes which make HIV prevention and treatment more difficult. Harris’ and Diorio’s comments are stigmatizing and harmful; they also fuel stereotypes which make HIV prevention and treatment more difficult. And that’s exactly what local and regional HIV prevention professionals and medical experts unanimously told the Charlotte Observer on Monday. MeckPAC is calling upon Harris and Diorio to immediately apologize to the thousands of people in Mecklenburg County currently living with HIV and those who are most at-risk of becoming HIV-positive. After they apologize, they should immediately begin working to see that Mecklenburg County begins to support PrEP, a once-daily pill that can reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission by up to 92 percent."
Additionally, Charlotte LGBT advocate, Matt Comer, tweeted that a health department employee referred who are HIV as "the infected" in a Facebook post.
According to his tweets, he's meeting with a county official about the comments.