Abstinence-Only Focus, Black Church ‘Denial’ Hinders HIV/AIDS Fight, Opinion Piece Says
People involved in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic, especially in the African-American community, face two "walls" in their efforts: "the Bush administration's 'abstinence-only' philosophy that precludes funding for those who advocate condom use" and "the reluctance of the black community -- and especially the churches from which it traditionally has taken its cue -- to address the problem," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Senior Editor Clarke Thomas writes in a Post-Gazette opinion piece. However, "there are important gaps in each barrier," Thomas says. Ryan White CARE Act funding is a "significant exception" to Bush administration policies because it is "unrestricted," he says, adding that states can use the money for programs that focus on more than abstinence. And despite widespread "denial" about HIV/AIDS among black churches, some churches are beginning to talk about HIV/AIDS, Thomas says. Some small evangelical black churches have begun to take "some of the bravest steps" by letting people know where they can obtain condoms and forming outreach programs to help HIV-positive people, Thomas says, adding that most "major" black churches still "won't touch" prevention education efforts. "My hat is off to those churches that are breaking the walls that, however unintentionally, shield that dreadful disease," Thomas writes, concluding, "I only wish those in power in Washington who clamorously advocate 'reverence for life' would extend it to include protecting the living against the scourge of AIDS" (Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/13).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.