Black Christian Leaders in California Call on Churches To Discuss HIV/AIDS, Provide Education, Testing
More than 80 black Christian leaders and AIDS advocates in California on Friday at a conference in Los Angeles agreed to use houses of worship to provide HIV tests, distribute educational materials and "talk openly" about HIV/AIDS, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Participants at the conference signed a "covenant" outlining their commitment to HIV/AIDS outreach and education programs, according to the Chronicle. Participants also gave their support to a bill (AB 1142) in the California Legislature, sponsored by Assembly member Mervyn Dymally (D), that create a Statewide African-American HIV/AIDS Initiative, which, among other things, would declare a state of emergency in the black community. The bill is expected to be considered by the Assembly Appropriations Committee this week, according to the Chronicle. In California, African Americans -- who account for about 7% of the state population -- account for about 18% of the state's reported AIDS cases, according to state Department of Health Services figures. "Without a doubt, this is the worst public health crisis that has ever affected African Americans in this country," MacArthur Flournoy, an African-American HIV/AIDS expert at the California health department's Office of AIDS, said. Flournoy and other conference participants said many churches still consider HIV/AIDS as "sinful" and do not consider fighting the spread of the disease as part of their "overall mission," according to the Chronicle. "You need to get over your issues and address (sex) from the pulpit," Rev. Russell Thornhill of the Unity Fellowship of Christ Church in Los Angeles said at the conference, adding, "You cannot be afraid to give out a condom" (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 5/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.