Clergy Seek Answers to D.C. AIDS Crisis
November 13, 2009
The City Council recently met with area faith leaders, physicians, and health advocates in a discussion about the District of Columbia's HIV/AIDS rate and how to work collaboratively to reduce it.
"At the time we took over the committee four years ago, there hadn't been a hearing held about HIV/AIDS in two years," said David Catania (I-At Large), chair of the council's Health Committee. "Nothing was being done."
Since then, the District has increased health coverage for the HIV-positive uninsured, rolled out mandatory screening of jail inmates, and worked with non-profits on city initiatives, Catania said.
HIV/AIDS used to be considered a disease of gay white men only, said Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). "The black, faith-based community had blinders on," Barry said. "Thank God that most pastors now can see beyond that. They see it is among their parishioners. This is a pandemic, and [since] it is, you have to act like it."
"Once something becomes a common disease, it doesn't take an extreme lifestyle to come in contact with it," said Shannon L. Hader, director of the city HIV/AIDS Administration. "We have a need to be loved and valued. The church can help promote respect and value in healthy relationships."
"With so many other problems including homelessness, no food, mental health issues, substance abuse, no job, and losing our children to violence, how do you have time to worry about HIV?" asked Patricia Nalls, who runs the Women's Collective. "And we also have to deal with the homophobia in the church."
The Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of D.C. and Vicinity is ready to lead in addressing the disease, said the Rev. Frank Tucker, its chair and pastor of First Baptist Church in Northwest. "We have made an intentional effort to include all faith groups, the medical community, and media."
11.12.2009; Denise Rolark Barnes
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.