Atlanta Journal-Constitution Profiles Local Reverend’s Efforts To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness Among Black Community
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday profiled the Rev. William Sheals of the Norcross, Ga.-based Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church and his efforts to fight the spread of HIV in the area's black community. According to Sheals, Hopewell's efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in the black community began in 1993 when a member who was living with AIDS died of a related illness. Following the death, the church hired an HIV/AIDS director to work with a registered nurse, and the church three times annually hosts a health fair with the Duluth, Ga.-based advocacy group AIDGwinnett.
In addition to Hopewell, a number of metro Atlanta congregations have invited HIV/AIDS groups to conduct prevention classes and rapid HIV testing. Some churches also have established ministries focused on HIV/AIDS and other health issues and offer health screenings and HIV tests alongside choir rehearsal and Bible study, the Journal-Constitution reports. In addition, AIDGwinnett, CDC and Emory University have partnered with black congregations in the Atlanta metro area to promote HIV prevention. George Roberts, associate director for prevention partnerships at CDC, said, "We see faith as an important element in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS' impact on African-Americans because we reach people where they live, work, play and worship."
Sheals said he would like to see more churches publicly address HIV/AIDS issues. "We have a captive audience," he said, adding, "I encourage leaders in our community -- faith-based and secular and especially pastors -- to speak up and speak out. Silence is death. Information is power and life" (Bonds Staples, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/11).