Washington, D.C., Black Church Leaders Call for More Preaching About HIV/AIDS Testing, Reducing Stigma
About 75 ministers from predominantly black churches in Washington, D.C., on Thursday met for a Clergy Leadership Summit on HIV/AIDS with the aim of increasing HIV/AIDS awareness; encouraging preachers to discuss HIV testing and how to reduce stigma surrounding HIV-positive people; and urging churches to devote full-time staff to address HIV/AIDS issues, the Washington Post reports. Also at the meeting, Marsha Martin, director of the district's HIV/AIDS Administration, said the city plans to begin a campaign to get residents ages 14 to 84 to be tested for HIV by the end of 2006. The Rev. Christine Wiley of the Covenant Baptist Church in the district said her church offers weekly HIV testing and distributes condoms, adding, "The black church is more willing than it's ever been to deal with this." Sterling Tucker, former chair of the Council of the District of Columbia and lead organizer of the meeting, said the summit included ministers from a range of churches, including "Pentecostal ministers and other conservative ministers who wouldn't have been here before." The Rev. Calvin Butts, pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City and chair of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, said churches "must never compromise the reasons why" they fight HIV/AIDS. The district has the highest rate of new AIDS cases in the country, and the majority are among blacks, according to the Post (Boorstein, Washington Post, 5/27). Of the district's more than 500,000 residents, an estimated one in 50 is living with AIDS and one in 20 is HIV-positive (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/8).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.