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U.S. News

Pennsylvania: Local Black Clergy Unite to Fight HIV/AIDS

November 12, 2010

Philadelphia clergy from more than 100 houses of worship are staging an all-out HIV prevention and education campaign targeting the city's African-American population.

Over the next few weeks, clergy have committed to efforts such as discussing HIV in their sermons and hosting HIV testing. Clear Channel Outdoors has donated five billboards with HIV prevention messages, and the Kaiser Family Foundation is contributing information packets, buttons, and church fans with a prevention message.

"This is the first time I have seen pastors come together in a collective way to address this epidemic," said the Rev. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia.

The effort was sparked in part by Amy Nunn, a social science researcher at Brown University School of Medicine. The campaign is using one of Nunn's research findings, that people at highest risk of HIV often perceive themselves at the lowest risk, to reach out to heterosexual black women.

"I didn't think I was at risk," said a 60-year-old black woman who recently told family members she has been HIV-positive for 10 years. "All I did was meet somebody, fall in love -- one partner -- and you know, I was at risk."

Muslim as well as Christian faith leaders are taking part in the campaign. Clergy also are educating their congregations that 30 percent of the city's HIV-positive patients are female, and 70 percent are over age 40.

For some pastors, it has been a challenge to discuss a disease that people associate with homosexuality or multiple sex partners.

"I'm steadfast on [preaching] abstinence," Johnson said. At the same time, he insists couples be tested for HIV before they are married, and he got tested himself during a church service in May.

Back to other news for November 2010

Adapted from:
Philadelphia Inquirer
11.11.2010; Don Sapatkin

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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.
See Also's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
HIV and Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
More on African-American Churches and HIV/AIDS


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