Shatter AIDS Taboo, Black Leaders Urged; Speakers Say Squeamishness Is Costing Lives
February 11, 2002
With millions of people worldwide dying of AIDS-related causes each year and new HIV infections racing through the US black community, Rochelle Glymph delivered an unflinching talk about sex, condoms, spermicides, anatomy, promiscuity, prostitution and the dangers of denial at the District of Columbia's Nineteenth Street Baptist Church on Saturday. Glymph, a Howard University assistant professor of clinical laboratory science, said, "Even with all the publicity, there are women who don't believe HIV is prevalent in the black community." It wasn't the kind of language often heard in church -- and, according to organizers of the conference on HIV/AIDS in the black community, that was exactly the point. Panelists said it was useless to worry about morality or embarrassment if that could prevent honest discussion. Accurate information and ruthless honesty are the only choice, they said.
Black churches and community groups uneasy with the subject must overcome their queasiness and spread understanding of HIV/AIDS with frank talk, said Derrick Harkins, the Northwest church's pastor. "You've got to talk about these things, because the hard reality is that people are dying," Harkins said in an interview. "One of the biggest culprits in the African-American community has been silence. How can we act as if nothing is happening?"
The conference, sponsored by Howard University and a drug company, brought together pastors, church activists, social workers, educators and health professionals in an attempt to encourage black religious groups to get more involved in prevention efforts. Tracy Pace, a social worker from the District who attended the conference, said black churches have been too quiet. "The black community is already stigmatized, and when you add a disease that's associated with sex, it's a taboo subject," he said. "The voice of the black church needs to be heard."
02.10.02; Avram Goldstein
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.