Religious Groups Participate in Black Church ‘Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS’
The 14th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, which seeks to mobilize the black religious community to become involved in fighting the disease through prayer, music, plays, speeches and discussions, started yesterday, the Kansas City Star reports (Klein, Kansas City Star, 3/1). The Week of Prayer is sponsored by The Balm in Gilead, a not-for-profit group that seeks to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in the black community by encouraging churches and faith-based groups to provide education and support networks for all people living with and affected by the disease (The Balm in Gilead release, 2/7). "There's a feeling of apathy in the African-American community, a feeling of invulnerability. We're trying to make people understand that everyone's at risk," Rev. David Gilmore, vice chair of the Black Church Week of Prayer in St. Louis, said. AIDS is the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34 and for black men ages 35 to 44. Blacks accounted for nearly half of all new AIDS cases in 2001, according to statistics from the CDC (Kansas City Star, 3/1). Pernessa Seele, founder and CEO of The Balm in Gilead, developed the prayer week 14 years ago after her work as an immunologist at a Harlem hospital exposed her to a trend of many HIV-positive blacks being abandoned by their families and churches. "One of the reasons the church didn't get involved was because of its theological stance on homosexuality. When people said it was a gay white man's disease, the church said that's not us," Rev. Alberta Ware, director of church and community mobilization for The Balm in Gilead, said (Gutierrez-Mier, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 3/1). Since 1989, involvement in The Balm in Gilead has grown from 50 Harlem churches to more than 10,000 churches nationwide (Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/1). An audio report on the week of prayer is available in RealPlayer online (The Balm in Gilead audio release, 2/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.