The Black Church and HIV/AIDS

Black religious leaders and public health advocates this week launched the 19th annual Black Church Week of Prayer to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in communities of color.

From Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report

Pernessa Seele, founder and CEO of the Balm in Gilead, said, "By uniting leaders at the national level and providing local churches with theologically appropriate methods and materials for addressing AIDS at the grassroots level, the Balm in Gilead and its programs empower black faith communities to respond effectively to this devastating pandemic."

CDC figures show the number of blacks in the U.S. living with AIDS increased by 33% between 2001 and 2005. They also show that although blacks represent about 12% of the U.S. population, they account for about 50% of new AIDS cases. Black women account for the majority of new AIDS cases among women, and black teenagers ages 13 to 19 account for more than 70% of new AIDS cases reported among the population, according to CDC figures.

The black church has historically played a large role in mobilizing African Americans around social justice issues, namely the civil rights movement. But the HIV/AIDS epidemic is the biggest challenge yet. The reality is that only a handful of black churches participating in this week’s events. Unfortunately there are still many black ministers – and church members – who are still in deep denial about the significance of this disease where HIV-positive congregants don’t feel safe about coming out about their status.

And don’t get me started about homophobia in the black church…

So, getting even some black churches involved right now in such advocacy is literally vital to the lives of African Americans. Until African Americans can have an open and honest discussion about HIV/AIDS and sexuality, the disease will only flourish.

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