Ministers, Medical Professionals, Lawmakers Gather for Meeting To Discuss HIV/AIDS Issues in Black Community
Dozens of ministers from across the country on Monday in New York City gathered with representatives from the National Medical Association, the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups to develop a plan for addressing HIV/AIDS in the black community, USA Today reports.
During the two-day meeting, convened by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, participants will discuss recommendations from NMA -- which includes about 30,000 black doctors and in August declared HIV/AIDS among blacks a public health emergency -- for fighting the epidemic in the U.S. The conference also aims to educate pastors about how they can combat HIV/AIDS in their communities, such as providing information about the disease and building relationships with social service agencies that can assist members living with the disease. Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Dallas-based Potter's House church, who is co-chairing the meeting, said the conference also will demonstrate to 2008 presidential candidates the importance of reaching out to black congregations and supporting HIV/AIDS research and education.
Jakes -- whose church has more than 30,000 members -- said, "We can hold our politicians accountable," adding, "Now is the time for the church to give a clarion call to government that this is one of the issues high on our radar screen." The Rev. Calvin Butts -- senior pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, who is co-chairing the meeting -- said, "Since the movement of the [1960s], we haven't seen a gathering of African-American clergy persons like this around a specific issue," adding, "At that time, it was civil rights and human rights. Now it's a major health crisis which is impacting our community." Butts also said that for "25 years we've been dealing with this crisis, ... but I don't think there's been enough attention paid to it, and I think our efforts have not had the power that they can have because we have not come together as we are doing now."
NBLCA President Debra Fraser-Howze said, "We have a time bomb on our hands," adding, "I think that the black church will openly admit that they have not done enough in regard to HIV and AIDS. ... This is the time for them to come together to use their collective influence to make a national statement on what needs to happen." According to CDC estimates from 2005, blacks made up about 13% of the U.S. population but accounted for 49% of new AIDS diagnoses (Jones, USA Today, 10/8).