Ohio: Program Reaches Out to Those With HIV
August 25, 2003
After retiring from the Cincinnati Veterans Administration Medical Center, Mamie Harris found a new mission in AIDS. Harris and her husband Michael established an HIV/AIDS outreach ministry to provide testing and prevention education to at-risk people who may feel alienated by their religious community.Adapted from:
The ministry is operated through the church her husband pastors, Emmanuel's New Mount Zion Christian Center in College Hill, Ohio. "There is such a passion in my heart to bridge the gap between the church and HIV patients," said Harris.
Focusing on the black community, Harris carries out testing and provides abstinence-based prevention counseling in homeless shelters, treatment centers and jails.
Many in the community still think of AIDS as a gay white man's disease that does not affect them and such thinking has to change, said Harris. "We have to stop thinking of it as a homosexual disease. I think if we remove some of those concepts, the African-American community will embrace the idea that education [and] testing are necessary. It's our problem, and it's going to have to be our solution," Harris continued.
Her thoughts echo the motto of the African-American HIV University, the Los Angeles-based organization that awarded Harris a two-year fellowship. After they graduate, fellows work with HIV-positive men and women to help them understand and adhere to their treatment regimens. More knowledge translates to less fear and lowered transmission of HIV, according to Antonne Moore, program director and dean of the university.
One of Harris' goals is to encourage more blacks to participate in research for an AIDS vaccine or HIV suppression drugs. "If only white men are involved in the research, how do we know if the drugs are going to be effective for African-American females and African-American males?" asked Harris. "Since we are the larger number of people infected, we need to be more involved."
08.22.03; Peggy O'Farrell