Baltimore African-American Clergy Encourage HIV Tests in Memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
A group of West Baltimore African-American clergy yesterday took part in an HIV testing drive at Douglas Memorial Community Church to encourage others to get tested and lessen the stigma associated with the virus, invoking the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Baltimore Sun reports. "If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, there is no doubt that HIV/AIDS would be at the top of his agenda. For while there are many problems and issues that present awesome challenges to the African-American community, HIV/AIDS is a direct and immediate threat, a clear and present danger to our survival," Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor at Douglas Memorial, said. According to Rev. Deborah Hickman, co-founder of a group that assists African-American women with HIV, about 18,000 people in Baltimore have HIV/AIDS, and 80% of those infected are black. HIV testing and treatment is particularly difficult in the African-American community because of the stigma associated with the disease, the Sun reports, as many "associate AIDS with moral wrongdoing" and are afraid that the community will turn its back on them if they test positive for the virus. By taking the oral swab tests in the community, "we say to our parishioners that the issue is health and wholeness ... [and] then we can create a culture of compassion," Warnock explained (Francke, Baltimore Sun, 1/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.