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U.S. News

Carrying an Important Message; HIV-Positive Woman Turns to Churches to Help Educate Newark on AIDS Prevention

January 8, 2010

For three years, AIDS advocate Deloris Dockery has been lobbying Newark-area churches to preach HIV prevention. Early detection, safe sex, and needle exchange are topics many pastors and bishops feel uncomfortable addressing from the pulpit, but Dockery is on a mission to change that.

"We talk about basic HIV transmission and the role the congregation can play in stemming the epidemic," said Dockery, who heads the program "One Conversation," a part of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation.

Though the bulk of churches she has approached have not been responsive, Dockery said things are beginning to change. "In the churches that we have worked with, the response is good," she said, adding, "It could be greater. It could always be greater."

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Dockery says early detection and treatment is essential. "That is the message that I bring to churches and to our community," she said. It is a message she has experienced personally. Dockery contracted HIV through unprotected sex in 1994. Though "devastated" at the diagnosis, she now leads a healthy, productive life and has earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

One of Newark's largest congregations, the 2,500-member New Hope Baptist Church has become an important ally in Dockery's quest. Its HIV ministry provides meals, counseling, and onsite, confidential HIV testing, said Francis J. Dixon, director of New Hope's Vision of Hope Community Development Corporation. "There couldn't be a better ambassador," Dixon said of Dockery.

One in 47 people in Newark is living with HIV/AIDS. Statewide, according to the state Department of Health and Senior Services, one in 62 African Americans in New Jersey is infected, compared to one in 705 whites.

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Adapted from:
Star-Ledger (Newark)
12.20.2009; David Giambusso


  
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