On Sunday, the NAACP joined forces with African-American church leaders in Texas on the first national "Day of Unity" against HIV. The outreach encouraged pastors to take an active role in fighting the spread of HIV and provided testing and education to the black community.
The Rev. Timothy Sloan at the St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble was tested for HIV during the church service by a member of a local wellness center. He preached, "This is an epidemic; we must address the issue if we are going to defeat it. Today I encourage everyone here to get tested." He added, "Know your status."
Also on Sunday, a training manual, "The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative," was unveiled. It focuses on providing church leaders with the tools they need to talk about HIV/AIDS within their communities.
Sloan told his congregation it is important to get the word out to other churches and community members. "We've got to stop the 'ostrich syndrome,' where we stick our heads in the sand and pretend these issues aren't happening." Houston has about 22,000 HIV/AIDS cases. In 2010, about 42 percent of the 4,242 Texans diagnosed with HIV were black.
Tiffany Crawford, leader of the church's health awareness program, said, "There is a stigma with AIDS in the African-American community, and it has become very important in this day and age to get tested."
Both the NAACP and St. Luke leaders plan to use momentum from Sunday's event to start an HIV prevention movement.
[PNU editor's note: For more information on the campaign, and to download the training manual, visit www.theblackchurchandhiv.org/.]