HOUSTON – July 8, 2012 – Today, on the eve of the 103rdAnnual Convention, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) mobilized clergy throughout the Houston metropolitan area to participate in the first annual Day of Unity, an event designed to inspire pastors to talk about HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue with their parishioners. Using the NAACP’s new manual, The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, clergy throughout the Houston area are talking to their community about HIV as an issue of health equity. The release of this manual marks the inaugural moment when the NAACP is sharing its perspective on the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community and the integral role the Black Church can play in combating this disease.
With more than 21,000 churches in the U.S., the Black Church has the potential to make a significant impact in the battle against HIV/AIDS in the Black community. In Houston, where one in 93 of all Houstonians are living with HIV/AIDS, this is particularly true. The NAACP is calling on faith leaders across the city to recommit to social justice and fight for health equity for their congregants. The effort underscores the NAACP’s commitment to mobilize its members to turn the tide against the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community.
“There is an immediate need for faith leaders to take action to address what is happening in our community,” said Roslyn Brock, Chairman of the NAACP. “Throughout our history, the NAACP and the Black Church have worked together to combat policies and practices that undermine human rights and social justice. Health equity is the fight for our generation. We encourage all pastors in the Houston area to dispel the myths about HIV and talk about it as a social justice issue.”
More than 30 years into the epidemic, HIV still has a disproportionate impact on the Black community. Black men and women continue to carry the highest burden of the epidemic in Houston. While they represent 19 percent of the population, Blacks account for 54 percent of all adult cases of HIV in Harris County. Many attribute these differences to racial disparities.
“Addressing HIV within our churches will take courage from many faith leaders,” said Dr. Timothy W. Sloan from the St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church and a Day of Unity participant. “Confronting stigma, myths and silence is not easy. But with increased knowledge, together, we have the opportunity to change the status quo. In Houston, we can take the real steps necessary to change the path of the epidemic.”
The Day of Unity encourages pastors across the city to:
· Announce the partnership with the NAACP’s Health Department in support of the manual launch at the 103rd Annual Convention on Monday, July 9, 2012;
· Preach a sermon about HIV as a social justice issue;
· Film a sermon about HIV as a social justice issue and upload it to YouTube to share with others;
· Include in church bulletins HIV educational materials that demonstrate the impact of HIV;
· Provide HIV screenings at churches in partnership with local health organizations; and
· Partner with other churches and/or health organizations in the city on outreach efforts.
“For the first time in recent memory, our nation’s leaders have spoken of an AIDS-free generation,” said Benjamin Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. “Advancements in prevention and treatment have put the end in our sights. But only if we act. Without action, the epidemic will continue to disproportionately affect our communities.”
The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative was developed after a year-long effort by the NAACP. During the research phase, the NAACP interviewed more than 250 faith leaders across multiple denominations to identify best practices and challenges when addressing HIV within the Black Church. After the launch, the initiative will continue with educational workshops on HIV for clergy members in cities and seminaries around the country. These workshops will be conducted in partnership with local NAACP units and structured so that pastors are aware, engaged and mobilized to create sustainable change.
About HIV in the U.S.
It is estimated that 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV, with 50,000 new cases occurring each year. HIV still has a disproportionate impact on the Black community – while Blacks represent 14 percent of the total U.S. population, they account for approximately 44 percent of new HIV infections. One in 16 Black men and one in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes. If Black America was its own country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people with HIV.
About the NAACP
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
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