This week is the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. The church has always been a staple in the Black community. It is the source of inspiration, comfort, and support. But the Black church has also been criticized for ignoring the AIDS crisis and fostering stigma. AIDS activists believe that the church could be one of the main sources for turning the tide on the epidemic.
Now a new documentary hopes to shed a positive light on churches that are working to end the epidemic. The Gospel of Healing Volume I: Black Churches Respond to HIV/AIDS is a full feature film, which highlights five models of faith-based prevention, treatment and care services that target predominately African-American communities. The focus is on the work that is being done to help tear down stigma and bring more understanding into the Black community. The film showcases outreach models from five churches along the East Coast.
- The First Response Center in Nashville, Tennessee provides care and links people to services. Led by Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, this outreach model assists HIV positive people in getting services such as substance abuse counseling, mental health services, and housing assistance.
- Project Shalem/CityUprising is a partnership model in Baltimore, Maryland designed to bring institutions together to address the community. Ellis Prince, Pastor of Gallery Church, Amy Lang, former Executive Director of Hope Spring HIV Ministries, and Derek Spencer, Executive Director of The Jacques Initiative at the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore teamed up with 13 churches, mosques, and synagogues to test 1,500 people in one day.
- Community of Hope takes the audience to neighboring Temple Hills, Maryland where Pastor Anthony "Tony" Lee conducts quarterly HIV in Community of Hope A.M.E. church. Pastor Lee ensures that HIV testing is conducted during all three church services to help foster a stigma-free environment.
- The Hats Luncheon is hosted at Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in Bamberg, South Carolina. Coordinated by Ms. Denver Malcolm, Outreach Coordinator for Project P.O.W.E.R., the Hats Luncheon brings in over 200 residents from this small rural town to parade their favorite hats and raise awareness about HIV.
- Beautiful Gate Outreach Center in Wilmington, Delaware works to eliminate stigma and close the gaps in health disparities. Renee Palmore-Beaman, a registered nurse, and her husband Pastor Sylvester S. Beaman established an HIV/AIDS testing program and primary care facility at Bethel A.M.E. Church.
The Gospel of Healing documentary has been screened before the Congressional Black Caucus already and will host several multimedia symposiums throughout the year.
If your church is ready to help people with HIV/AIDS through ministry but need guidance on where to begin look no further than the DC Department of Health HAHSTA Division. They created the Places of Worship Advisory Board to help build and maintain a network of interfaith support for churches that are ready to work on the frontlines of fighting HIV/AIDS. The POWAB hosts workshops throughout the year as well as the One in the Spirit Symposium in the fall.
For more information about The Gospel of Healing documentary, click here. For more information about the Places of Worship Advisory Board, click here.