National Baptist Convention To Address HIV/AIDS Issues for First Time
Delegates of the National Baptist Convention USA -- the nation's largest black religious organization -- this week for the first time will discuss the issue of HIV/AIDS in the black community, the AP/Springfield News-Leader reports. The group is in St. Louis for a weeklong meeting that will feature a health fair.
The 7.5 million-member organization historically has excluded the topic from its health forums, Evelyn Mason, the groups' health organizer, said. According to Mason, the group had thought of HIV/AIDS as "something only bad people get" because of the disease's association with homosexuality and drug use. Blacks are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and account for about 49% of all HIV cases in the U.S., according to CDC. "The numbers dictate we have to pay more attention and take ownership," Mason said, adding, "This disease has taken ownership of us."
In addition to workshops and information on hypertension, diabetes, obesity, prostate cancer, prescription drug costs and other health issues of interest to the black community, organizers are incorporating discussions about HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness into the agenda.
The group also will hold an educational forum to address about 3,000 black youth on the topic of HIV prevention (Wittenauer, AP/Springfield News-Leader, 6/19). "This wouldn't have happened five years ago. There's a change within church leadership [and] within local churches," Mason said, adding, "We won't be passing out condoms, but we will be telling [participants] there's something called AIDS that they are likely to get if they do certain things" (Associated Press, 6/18).