March 6, 2013
Pastor Steve Jerbi of All Peoples Church in Milwaukee knew that the HIV/AIDS crisis in his city was real, especially for young African-American men who have sex with men. Jerbi decided to do something proactive to illuminate Milwaukee's HIV/AIDS and healthcare crisis by taking an HIV test, along with his youth director, in church before his congregation on March 3. After his sermon on "acceptance," the congregation found out that the two men's results were negative.
Jerbi and his youth director, Elijah Furquan, illustrated to the congregation how easy it is to get tested and how important it is for a person to know his or her status. Jerbi declared, "We must talk about prevention and protection as well and encourage testing." Knowing one's status can not only prolong a person's life, but also save lives by prompting people to take the necessary steps in protecting themselves and others.
Brenda Coley, a spokesperson from Diverse and Resilient, a local organization that sponsors HIV/AIDS prevention programs, stated that Jerbi's HIV test indicates how far the church has progressed, but noted there is still much to be done. When churches discuss HIV/AIDS, it leads to people discussing how to prevent it, and that is when discussions become difficult. Churches will need to extend great effort to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Faith leaders and the faith community need to be willing to help. Some African-American ministers are starting to take action on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the black community, but change has been slow.