Georgia: HIV/AIDS Tricky Subject in Faith Community
March 31, 2010
More than two decades into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the faith community continues to struggle with how to address the disease.
"AIDS is so stigmatized that people won't even get the test," said the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. During a recent Sunday morning service, Warnock took a rapid oral HIV test as a way to alleviate the fears of others who do not know their status.
Warnock chairs the Atlanta affiliate of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, which is backing a federal bill that emphasizes HIV/AIDS education, prevention, and testing in the African-American community. If passed, the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of AIDS Act would expand outreach targeting black women, youth, and men, particularly men who have sex with men.
"This issue of HIV/AIDS is too urgent for business as usual," said Warnock. "We are in the fight of our lives and the African-American community is ground zero."
Dazon Dixon Diallo of Sister-Love Inc., an Atlanta-based HIV/AIDS nonprofit, said too many black pastors remain on the sidelines. "We need the faith leadership, in their own ideas, teachings, and preaching, to somehow be inclusive and still practice compassion even if people's actions and behaviors are different," she said. "It's really, really impossible to talk about HIV and AIDS without talking about sex and sexuality and that's sticky for a lot of people in the faith leadership."
03.27.2010; Shelia M. Poole