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All People's Church and Their Response to HIV

By Rev. Andrena Ingram

March 5, 2013

I am uber-excited and proud and thankful whenever I hear of a church picking up the gauntlet and doing what needs to be done. In this specific case -- about HIV in our communities!

I have been raising the 'battle-cry' about the church's response to HIV for so long, and it just makes my heart sing when I read about congregations testing and getting tested. It makes me so happy to know that someone has actually taken the time to look into their communities and recognize an issue that needs to be addressed. It can be gun control, hunger, the children, education, whatever! Just do SOMETHING, besides 'gathering the assembly' and sitting in the pews!

Now, I know there are others. But certainly more can be done ... more pastors can at least educate. And if you say "not my community" or "we only have the elderly" ... well, guess what? HIV is also on the rise in with our Senior Citizens!

I could go on, and will at a later date (pulling a sermon together right now). I just wanted to give props to Reverend Steve Jerbi, Elijah and the saints of "All People's Church"! Thank YOU! You have made my journey a little lighter!

... and if you are in the Milwaukee area -- go and get tested! Go and worship with them, join a community who cares about community.

Their facebook page is here:

Taken from their facebook page, Pastor Jerbi writes:

Milwaukee is facing a crisis. Unlike the violent crimes that lead off the nightly news or the infant mortality that makes the front page of the papers, this crisis is often suffered in silence.

Milwaukee's rates of HIV infection are skyrocketing.

And to begin addressing these issues, All Peoples Church is encouraging our congregation and community to know their status with HIV testing. Pastor Steve Jerbi and youth director Elijah Furquan (my buddy!) will be tested for HIV on Sunday, March 3, during the congregation's 11:00 AM service as part of an ongoing effort to address the pressing health and social problems of the community.

All Peoples Church is partnering with Diverse and Resilient, a local agency with several HIV prevention programs. The agency most visibly manages a large social campaign on acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, called Acceptance Journeys.

Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection and others have shown that various health disparities, including the sharp increase in HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men in Milwaukee, is in part attributable to anti-gay discrimination, social exclusion, unstable housing, and family upset. Currently it is estimated that between two and four in 10 African American gay and bisexual men in Milwaukee is HIV positive. Other health disparities for LGBT people include higher rates of tobacco use, earlier use of alcohol, community and partner violence, and suicide.

The partnership of All Peoples Church and Diverse and Resilient continues to support the reduced rates of HIV transmission by knowing one's HIV status, learning how to prevent transmissions, and addressing anti-gay discrimination that makes gay and bisexual men vulnerable to HIV infection risk.

In announcing his plan, Pastor Jerbi said, "Churches need to be raising the epidemic issue of HIV/AIDS in Milwaukee. And part of that happens by taking away the stigma of testing. If the only message people are hearing from churches is abstinence and sex within marriage, we are failing to deal with the realities facing our community. We need to also talk prevention and protection. We need to encourage testing."

Elijah Furquan explains why he is participating. "Our reason for wanting to be publicly tested is to encourage the testing by others in our predominantly African American congregation." He added, "We need to help people take the measures against one of the leading killers among Black people. We also need to promote perspectives that lead to good health outcomes."

Brenda Coley, Director of Special Projects at Diverse and Resilient, notes that she is "rarely moved by projects as much as I am by Acceptance Journeys. Scores of Milwaukeeans have stepped forward to express their love and support of the LGBT people in their families and elsewhere in their lives. Our photo shoots and storytelling interviews are warm, engaging, and meaningful events for all involved."

Pastor Jerbi added, "As Christians, we believe Jesus made healing a sign of the kingdom. We need to also be working for the love, support and healing of those living with HIV."

Join us this Sunday as we come together for a service of prayer and healing for HIV/AIDS. Help us encourage one another to know our status and to proclaim the inclusive message of love and acceptance given to us by Jesus.

11:00 AM -- Powerhouse Worship
All Peoples Church
2600 N 2nd Street
Milwaukee, WI 53212

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