Pittsburgh, Pa., Conference Urges Black Ministers to Fight AIDS
PeerPastors, a group of ministers who meet monthly to discuss HIV and AIDS, this weekend hosted "Breaking the Silence -- Building Bridges," a three-day conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., aimed at mobilizing local black churches into promoting HIV testing, awareness and prevention, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Conference keynote speaker Pernessa Seele, CEO and founder of Balm in Gilead, a not-for-profit group that urges black churches to become more involved in combatting AIDS and the stigma attached to the illness, called on black ministers to "bring a word of hope, healing and help to people affected by AIDS." She added that "[p]overty and lack of access to medical treatment are two culprits that strip black people of proper health care, filling pews and pulpits with people who are sick, physically and emotionally." AIDS kills more black men ages 25 to 44 than heart disease, cancer and homicide, and the HIV infection rate is highest in black youths between the ages of 15 and 22, according to the Post-Gazette. One out of every 50 black men and one out of every 160 black women in the United States are infected with HIV. Seele told the pastors attending the conference, "We need a word from you. AIDS is not a sin. It's a crisis. ... [W]e need your help with advocacy and leading people to care and treatment." Noting the "skyrocketing" AIDS rate among black women, Seele called on ministers to promote an "open, honest discussion about the sexual behavior of men." She also said, "We've got to stop feeling that AIDS is a homosexual disease. It's [a] family disease. Families are infected" (Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/2).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.