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Who or What Got You Involved in HIV/AIDS Activism in the Black Community?

A Part of Our "Word on the Street" Series

February 25, 2014


Rob Newells

Rob Newells

Minister, Imani Community Church

When I tested positive for HIV in 2005, my first response was, "Well, God… What do you want me to do with this?"

Four years later, with the encouragement of Minister Rhonda White-Warner (1951-2014) and the support of my pastor, Dr. George C.L. Cummings and the Imani Community Church in Oakland, Calif., I returned to the HIV advocacy work I had left years earlier.

This time -- in contrast to my volunteer work with a local agency in North Carolina in the late-1990s and my employment with the National Minority AIDS Council that followed, all of which had been motivated by my desire to support family and friends living with HIV in Oakland -- I was called to work both in and through black churches to eliminate stigma and provide culturally-relevant HIV information to African-American communities most affected by new infections and least served by most mainstream HIV education efforts.

Since starting the Healing Faith HIV Ministry at Imani Community Church in 2009, I began work on a Master of Divinity degree and Certificate of Sexuality and Religion, I became licensed to preach the Gospel as an American Baptist minister, and I have had numerous opportunities to learn from and present to HIV prevention and treatment advocates from around the world. More importantly, I have been able to share information with my community that they would not otherwise receive.

This is what God wants me to do with HIV.

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