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National News

Balm in Gilead Using Church to Start Black Dialogue on AIDS

June 6, 2003

About 300 black church pastors and activists who gathered last week in Charlotte, N.C., for a meeting on AIDS in the black community got a simple message from Balm in Gilead founder and head Pernessa Seele: Get involved. Balm in Gilead has for 14 years helped black churches address AIDS in their communities through prayer, education and outreach. "Twenty-two years into this epidemic, the response to this disease continues to be driven by politics and theology -- not by public health and compassion," said Seele, whose group organized the meeting. "If we're looking for someone to come and save us -- sorry."

According to CDC, more than half of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections each year occur among blacks, though blacks make up less than 15 percent of the US population. One in 50 black men is HIV-positive, and over 60 percent of AIDS cases reported among American teenagers in 1999 were among black teens. "These numbers did not become alarming just yesterday," Seele said. "They have been alarming in our community for 22 years."

In addition to trying to initiate discussion of AIDS in the black church community, the Balm in Gilead provides technical support to churches that want to get more actively involved in the fight against the disease. Workshop topics at the meeting included strategies for mobilizing a church community on the issue; where to go for funding; how to teach abstinence; and how to teach survival techniques to teenagers, including awareness, condom use and abstinence.

Seele said her group has helped churches start HIV testing programs, build housing for people with the virus and establish case-management programs. She said the agency fields about 200 calls for technical assistance each week.

Back to other CDC news for June 6, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Associated Press
06.04.03; Tim Whitmire


  
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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.
 
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