As part of a multi-level effort to engage black churches in addressing HIV disparities, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) provided training on October 10 in Chicago for approximately 35 black church leaders. According to the Rev. Keron Sadler, manager of NAACP's Health Department, the training aimed to prepare Chicago's black church leaders to educate parishioners about HIV and screening.
Sadler noted that NAACP convened pastors in 2011 to determine why more than half of the nation's 21,000 black churches were not engaged in HIV efforts. The organization then developed a training toolkit consisting of a pastoral brief and manual to assist spiritual leaders in addressing HIV/AIDS within their communities. The initial roll-out targeted 12 cities, including Chicago. Clinton Global Initiative funding would support program expansion to 30 U.S. cities where approximately two-thirds of U.S. HIV-infected people reside.
According to Sadler, some black churches previously had emphasized that HIV resulted from sin; the NAACP curriculum reframed HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue, similar to poverty, housing instability, and healthcare disparities. Sadler hoped that theology and doctrine would cease to be barriers to "transparent" conversations about HIV/AIDS. She introduced the concepts of love and avenues to ministry when more conservative church leaders steered discussion toward religious dogma.
Additional information about NCAAP's HIV/AIDS initiative is available at www.theblackchurchandhiv.org.