Florida: Churches Pick Up Fight
March 8, 2007
Facing a growing epidemic in the state's African-American community, 60 churches in south Florida are participating in the 18th annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. Churches in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach are hosting prayer summits, offering HIV testing, distributing condoms, and launching ministries and support groups for people affected by HIV/AIDS.
While some Catholic and Episcopal churches early on founded AIDS ministries, pastors say many black and evangelical congregations have been slow to respond to the disease. Pansy Rose, administrative director of Pentecostal Tabernacle's AIDS ministry in Miami Gardens, said that for decades many pastors viewed HIV as a consequence of promiscuity or drug addiction.
"The [HIV/AIDS] statistics are continuing to rise in our community," said Teresa Lyles Holmes, spokesperson for the national AIDS nonprofit The Balm in Gilead, the prayer week's sponsor. "The churches are seeing now that they really do have to get involved."
According to CDC, the number of African Americans living with AIDS increased 33 percent from 2001 to 2005, a reflection of the continuing spread of the disease and the fact that improved treatment has helped those infected live longer. In Miami-Dade, which has the second-highest number of people with AIDS among large US metropolitan areas, blacks comprise half of AIDS cases but just 19 percent of the population, reports the state Department of Health's Bureau of HIV/AIDS.
Bishop Henry Hood of Broward County's Bethel Apostolic Church said that while he has addressed HIV prevention from the pulpit for three years, this is the first time he has joined other pastors in commemorating the national event. "Some maybe feel that it's getting too much into the private business of the people," he said. "But we're talking about it now."
03.03.2007; Alexandra Alter
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.