California: Black Churches Mounting AIDS Campaign
March 16, 2010
Nearly 40 area black churches were holding services to commemorate National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, March 7-13.
In addition to providing free HIV screenings, churches are working to overcome stigma associated with the disease. "It's the life of the person who's got it that's more important than how they got it," said the Rev. Ikenna Kokayi, president of the United African-American Ministerial Action Council. The southeast San Diego-based group sponsored a campaign-related outreach earlier in the month and has tested almost 200 high-risk people for HIV so far this year.
In San Diego County, African Americans make up about 5 percent of the population but roughly 13 percent of AIDS cases.
"If you want to reach African Americans, you have to go through African-American churches," said Clovis Honore of the San Diego Region Kemet Coalition, a group of HIV service organizations that aid black residents.
During a service at Mt. Moriah Christian Church in Mira Mesa, the Rev. Alpha Dority called for a "healing of AIDS." "Look here, oh God, we ask if there's anybody who is infected, then we ask right now that they get tested so they're able not to spread this disease," he said.
Though participation in the commemoration has grown at the national and local level, Kokayi said more churches need to come on board. Many black churches continue to struggle with addressing issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, including homosexuality, drug use, and sex. "But we shouldn't have a challenge in loving people and that's all people," said Kokayi.
San Diego Union-Tribune
03.12.2010; Leonel Sanchez
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.