‘Clergy Silence’ Puts People at Risk of HIV Infection, Opinion Piece Says
The continued stigmatization of HIV/AIDS as a "gay problem" has led many members of the faith community to be "silen[t]" on the issue, which in turn has put many more people at risk, North Carolina Faith Brain Trust Chair Ron Weatherford writes in a Greensboro News & Record letter to the editor. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has sought to "empower clergy to educate the faith community on HIV/STD issues," and the agency on May 18 is scheduled to hold the Faith Summit on HIV/AIDS, which aims to educate the state's religious communities about the epidemic, Weatherford says. The summit is "timely," Weatherford says, adding that in the two years he has headed the Faith Brain Trust, "it has been difficult enlisting clergy to coalesce and discuss" HIV/AIDS. He notes that of the 20,000 ministers and congregations in North Carolina, most of the preachers he has encountered "still have not preached about this subject from their pulpits." The state health department's HIV/STD branch recently awarded nearly $4 million to community organizations -- including faith-based groups -- to address the epidemic, Weatherford says, adding that "all faith groups [should] allot funds for programs to provide educational activities for the church as well as funds to help those infected, both at home and abroad." He concludes, "[K]nowledge is power. In the age of AIDS, ignorance is not bliss" (Weatherford, Greensboro News & Record, 5/12).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.