Boston’s Black Religious Leaders Take Part in Billboard Campaign to Promote HIV/AIDS Prevention
Boston's black religious leaders, who have "often frustrated activists ... by their reticence" to speak out about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, have "emerged united to confront a health crisis that has disproportionately assaulted their neighborhoods," the Boston Globe reports. Hoping to take advantage of religious institutions' "formidable presence in the black community," 10 clergy members have "agreed to put their names -- and those of their churches and mosques -- on a dozen AIDS prevention billboards" in three Boston-area neighborhoods that have been "most devastated" by HIV/AIDS. African Americans account for 25% of the reported HIV cases in Massachusetts, although they constitute only 5% of the state's population. The idea for the billboard campaign came from Robin Fuller, head of the Who Touched Me Ministry of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. Fuller is trying to recruit more religious leaders to take part. "The churches have sat in the back row for too long in regards to awareness and information about AIDS because of it once being categorized as a gay white man's disease," she said. Nation of Islam Minister Don Muhammad, who works in one of the neighborhoods that the billboards will target, added, "We don't accept that AIDS is some kind of scourge on this community. If we don't do everything we can to inform the community, we are derelict in our duties." The billboards, which will be posted for at least one month, will bear the image of Belynda Dunn, an AIDS activist who headed the Who Touched Me Ministry and urged clergy members to get involved in the epidemic until her death in March after receiving a liver transplant. The ministry won a $20,000 grant from drug maker GlaxoSmithKline that will cover all but $4,000 of the cost of the ads (Smith, Boston Globe, 6/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.