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New York: Pastor Bringing HIV Testing Into the Pews

November 18, 2002

On Nov. 24, the Rev. Darius G. Pridgen will introduce an HIV/AIDS awareness program in True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo, N.Y., with a Bible story to show how a community shunned an individual who had been stricken with an illness. And then Pridgen, in the presence of the congregation, will be tested for HIV in the sanctuary of the church. He will then invite members of the congregation, in between the church's two morning services, to be tested for HIV.

The day is being called Breakthrough Sunday, and about 40 HIV/AIDS educators and service providers from 11 different agencies, including the state Health Department and the American Red Cross, will be at the church to disseminate information and offer testing. "We have to find a way to bring about awareness," Pridgen said. "You can hand out pamphlets, but the majority don't read them. The minister said that education about HIV/AIDS also will reinforce the church's message of abstinence.

Officials at GROUP Ministries, an outreach ministry that is the lead agency organizing the event, have praised Pridgen for his stand on the issue. Other African-American ministers are working with GROUP Ministries to organize similar events for their churches.

The AIDS Network of Western New York estimates that more than 5,000 area residents are HIV-positive, and almost 3,000 are from communities of color. African-American women made up 62 percent of the 249 women diagnosed with AIDS last year in Buffalo, and black men -- mostly men who have sex with men, and drug users -- represent 50 percent of the 971 men in Buffalo who have been diagnosed with AIDS, according to the Erie County Health Department.

"Anything our people are ignorant about is the job of the church to try to provide decent information, awareness and enlightenment, so that they can be intelligent about an issue and make intelligent decisions," said the Rev. T. Anthony Bronner, whose Elim Christian Fellowship Church is planning its own Breakthrough Sunday.

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Adapted from:
Buffalo News

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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