Religious Groups Nationwide Participate in Black Church ‘Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS’
The 15th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, which seeks to mobilize the black religious community to become involved in combating the disease through workshops, prayer vigils and health screenings, began on Sunday, the Miami Herald reports (Robinson, Miami Herald, 3/7). The Week of Prayer is sponsored by The Balm in Gilead, a not-for-profit organization aimed at curbing 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 (Balm in Gilead release, 2/2). The group says that more than 15,000 congregations throughout the country are set to participate in the Week of Prayer; 15 years ago, 50 churches and mosques in the Harlem, N.Y., area participated in the event (Miami Herald, 3/7). Balm in Gilead Founder and CEO Pernessa Seele said that it is "imperative" for churches to become involved because there are not enough HIV/AIDS awareness programs aimed at blacks, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports. She added, "We need every pulpit, every African-American church speaking on HIV. Every African American must make HIV something they talk about every day." Seele said, "We must begin to act like we're in crisis because we are" (Coleman, St. Paul Pioneer Press, 3/7). According to CDC statistics, 54% of new HIV cases in the United States in 2002 were among African Americans, who make up 12% of the U.S. population, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Robert Swayzer, deputy director of Brotherhood Inc., a New Orleans-based AIDS prevention group, said that HIV/AIDS is "devastating the African-American community" (Darby, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 3/8).
NPR's "Tavis Smiley Show" on Monday will include an interview with Seele and National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS CEO Debra Fraser-Howze about the Week of Prayer (Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," NPR, 3/8). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer after noon ET.