16th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS Begins
The 16th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS -- in which thousands of African-American churches throughout the United States, Africa and the Caribbean join in an effort to help prevent the spread of HIV -- began on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The Balm in Gilead, a New York-based not-for-profit group, founded the Week of Prayer in 1989 in an effort to improve the response of African-American churches to the HIV/AIDS pandemic and provide support for those affected by the disease (Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/5). As part of the Week of Prayer, African-American churches nationwide will hold a number of events -- such as educational sessions, discussions and prayer vigils -- to address the issue of HIV/AIDS. Rev. Amos Landry of Seattle said, "It's time the pulpit made its voice heard and sound the alarm and tell folk we can no longer be uninvolved." Rev. Mary Diggs-Hobson of Seattle said that HIV/AIDS "still has such a stigma, much of that fueled by lack of knowledge as well as personal, cultural, social and religious beliefs." According to the Seattle Times, one of the "biggest barriers" to efforts to reduce the spread of HIV in the African-American community is the "belief that AIDS is primarily a disease affecting gay white men" (Tu, Seattle Times, 3/5). In 2003, African-American men were seven times more likely than white men to contract HIV (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/5). African-Americans accounted for 54% of new HIV/AIDS cases in 2002, and the disease is the leading cause of death among African-American men ages 35 to 44 (The Balm in Gilead release, 3/6). Several newspapers around the country have published articles covering events that took place to mark the Week of Prayer. Links to some of the articles appear below.
Cincinnati Enquirer: "Black churches ending AIDS silence" (Smith Amos, Cincinnati Enquirer, 3/5).
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: "Black churches hammer need to fight AIDS" (Meisch, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, 3/7).
Fort Wayne News Sentinel: "Churches use prayer, education to fight disease" (Kilbane, Fort Wayne News Sentinel, 3/5).
Louisville Courier-Journal: "Black churches focus on combating AIDS" (Hall, Louisville Courier Journal, 3/5).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Group plans a week of events to focus attention on HIV/AIDS" (Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/5).
- Youngstown Vindicator: "Raising awareness about HIV and AIDS" (Youngstown Vindicator, 3/7).
Increased Outreach Needed To Curb Spread of HIV, Editorial Says
The increasing HIV/AIDS prevalence among African Americans is a "call for greater outreach throughout the African-American community," as well as wider access to treatment for those already living with the disease, an Indianapolis Star editorial says. Although antiretroviral drugs do not "cure AIDS," they "prolong lives and reduce the chances" of transmission, according to the Star. Therefore, increasing the number of people living with HIV/AIDS who are on drug regimens "could slow the spread of the disease"; however, only about half of HIV-positive people in the United States who know they are infected are receiving treatment, the editorial says. The "surest means" of curbing the spread of HIV is to avoid injection drug use and unsafe sex practices, the editorial says. "It needs to be broadcast from pulpits, classrooms, the news media and health clinics that AIDS is not a disease limited to homosexual men. Nor have miracle drugs yet provided a cure," the editorial says, concluding, "AIDS remains a scourge that knows no race, sexual preference, gender or religion" (Indianapolis Star, 3/7).
WBUR's "On Point" on Wednesday in the first hour of the program included a discussion about HIV/AIDS among African Americans. Guests on the program included Robert Fullilove, professor of clinical health at Columbia University; Earl Ofari Hutchinson, columnist and author of "The Crisis in Black and Black"; and Jacob Levenson, author of "The Secret Epidemic: The Story of AIDS and Black America" (Ashbrook, "On Point," WBUR, 3/2). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer, Windows Media and Quicktime media formats.