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U.S. News

Florida: Pastor Warns Black Church: AIDS Is Crisis

January 16, 2004

Jean Payton, pastor of Perfecting Hope Ministries in Winter Garden, is on a crusade to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among central Florida blacks and to meet the practical needs of those already infected. "People are dying everywhere, at every turn," she said. "If churches can step forward -- people listen to their pastors."

Payton is one of the few local black leaders to use the pulpit to address the spread of HIV/AIDS in the black community. She takes her mission to the streets through her Reach Out program, which urges blacks to test for HIV, provides training for HIV/AIDS outreach, and offers an information line.

Like many mainline white churches, the black church "was slow to step up [on AIDS] mainly because the initial leadership was from the gay community," said the Rev. Ronald Weatherford, author of "Somebody's Knocking at Your Door: AIDS and the African-American Church." Thinking it was a gay disease, many religious leaders remained silent.

However, AIDS is the leading cause of death for black men and women ages 25-44. In Florida, blacks account for 14 percent of the population but 47 percent of the estimated 94,335 AIDS cases. Three black Floridians die of AIDS every 24 hours.

Payton chafes at arguments that the pulpit is not the place to talk about sex. "We're not hospitals, not doctors," she said, "but you can pass out a brochure. That will point people in the right direction."

The Rev. Leroy Dennis, past president of the Interdenominational Alliance of Orlando, feels there is more of a concerted effort to battle HIV/AIDS now than there was 10 or 15 years ago, but points out that "a lot of the people that black churches should be talking to aren't in church."

Back to other news for January 16, 2004

Adapted from:
Orlando Sentinel
01.10.04; Darryl Owens

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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.
See Also's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More on African-American Churches and HIV/AIDS