Clergy who gathered Saturday in Philadelphia at the Second Annual Faith Leaders and Community Summit heard messages encouraging them to fight HIV/AIDS in their congregations. About 200 clergy and community activists attended the meeting hosted by Philadelphia FIGHT and co-sponsored by Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity and the city.
According to the city Department of Public Health, 28,688 people in Philadelphia had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS through 2010. Nearly 1.3 percent of the population is living with HIV/AIDS. The rate of new infections is much higher than the national average.
Mayor Nutter told the clergy that "as faith leaders you have a unique, personal, and direct relationship with your constituents." He called their ability to communicate "far beyond anything I can do as mayor," and urged them to bring HIV/AIDS out of the shadows.
Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode gave the keynote address and presented a plan of action: Get educated, preach about it, and start an HIV/AIDS committee in the congregation.
The Rev. Jeffery A. Haskins, pastor of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, talked about church issues with homosexuality as well as women in the ministry, and HIV/AIDS. His theology is geared toward acceptance of LGBT and heterosexual individuals. "We need to talk," he said. "We have a right to disagree, but we need to have compassion and empathy."
The Rev. Chris Kimmenez, pastor of the Recovery Christian Center, agreed. "We'll throw the gay choir director out, but allow the drummer who is sleeping with every woman in the church to stay," he said.
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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