Ministers Call on U.S. Government To Declare HIV/AIDS Among Blacks Health Emergency, Propose Legislation To Address Disease
Ministers attending a conference hosted by the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS on Tuesday in New York City called on the government to declare HIV/AIDS among blacks a public health emergency and proposed legislation to address the disease within the community, the AP/Silive.com reports (Hajela, AP/Silive.com, 10/9). Ministers from across the country gathered on Monday for the two-day meeting with representatives from the National Medical Association, the Congressional Black Caucus and other groups to discuss HIV/AIDS issues in the black community (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/9).
The ministers called for the development of a plan to address HIV/AIDS nationwide and pledged to promote HIV/AIDS testing and awareness among their congregations (AP/Silive.com, 10/9). Ministers also committed to collaborate with CBC on a proposed bill, titled the National HIV/AIDS Elimination Act, which they are working to introduce in Congress by January, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The legislation calls on the president to declare HIV/AIDS among blacks a public health emergency, which would trigger money and resources to fight the disease, NBLCA President Debra Fraser-Howze said (Hajela, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/9).
Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Dallas-based Potter's House church, who co-chaired the meeting, said the conference also will "scrutinize" 2008 presidential candidates to ensure that preventing HIV/AIDS in the black community is on their agendas. "We will support only those candidates who have this as a primary interest item on their agendas as well," Jakes said (AP/Silive.com, 10/9). He added, "Our focus right now is saving lives. Tomorrow we can save souls" (AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/9). According to the Rev. Calvin Butts -- senior pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church, who co-chaired the meeting -- the perception that black churches have not been involved with the fight against HIV/AIDS is incorrect. "The clergy has always been involved," he said, adding, "Not enough people have paid attention to what the church has actually been doing" (AP/Silive.com, 10/9).
According to CDC estimates from 2005, blacks made up about 13% of the U.S. population but accounted for 49% of new AIDS diagnoses (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/9).