In advance of National HIV Testing Day on Wednesday, the District of Columbia's Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ encouraged worshippers to take the test in a van parked outside Sunday's service. The testing effort was part of the church's "Love in Action HIV & AIDS Ministry."
The pastor's wife, Alana Patrice Gayle, said, "Unfortunately, the black church just doesn't want to deal with sex, but it is very important to talk about it, especially here in D.C., where we have such a high AIDS rate."
According to a D.C. health department study released June 20, the infection rate for heterosexual African-American women in the poorest neighborhoods nearly doubled in two years, from 6.3 percent to 12.1 percent.
During the service, the church's pastors encouraged members to take the test. "You can't afford not to know your status," said the Rev. Carolyn L. Boyd-Clark. "This is something that we have to be accountable to ourselves for." She added, "We are so good with taking care of our physical bodies, we get our hair done, we get our toes done, but yet when it comes to our health and inner well-being, we miss the mark."
Sharron Tendai, a manager and HIV tester for the D.C. nonprofit HealthHIV, said, "It is important for black women to be empowered and to get an HIV test because it is important that we take care of ourselves in the same way that we take care of our families and our households."