By Faith, NAACP and Churches Raise Awareness
By news services
and Post staff
As a choir sang hymns, the senior pastor at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble, Texas sat on stage in front of hundreds of congregants Sunday morning, rolling up his sleeve to have his blood drawn by a member of a local wellness center.
The Rev. Timothy Sloan stood calmly with a smile, as he awaited and then read the results of his HIV test.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m proud to say I have been tested and my results are negative,” Sloan announced to the cheering crowd.
Rev. Sloan is one of many preachers across the country who are joining forces with the NAACP to take an active role in fighting the spread of HIV.
“This is an epidemic; we must address the issue if we are going to defeat it. Today I encourage everyone here to get tested,” Sloan preached. “Know your status.”
Sloan told his congregation about the importance of getting the word out to other churches and community members.
“We’ve got to stop the ‘ostrich syndrome,’ where we stick our heads in the sand and pretend that these issues aren’t happening,” Sloan said
The NAACP has kicked off a national campaign, which is asking ministers to preach a sermon about HIV as a social justice issue, provide HIV screenings at churches in partnership with local health organizations, and partner with other churches and/or health organizations on outreach efforts.
“There is an immediate need for our faith leaders to take action to address what is happening in our community,” NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock said in a statement.
“Throughout our history, the NAACP and the Black Church have worked together to combat policies and practices that undermine human rights and social justice,” said Brock.
Local ministers are already taking the message to their congregations.
“It is our job as pastors to educate our community,” said Oakland Pastor Phyllis Scott Tree of Life Empowerment Ministries.
“The Bible says that the people will perish for lack of knowledge. If all pastors speak out we can break the cycle of HIV/AIDS related deaths in our communities.”
Pastor Gerald Agee of Friendship Christian Center in Oakland is also taking action to raise awareness.
“My wife and I took the AIDS test because we believe that pastors should lead by example,” he said.
To encourage faith leaders to engage in HIV advocacy, the NAACP has published a pastoral brief and manual.
The manual, titled “The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” was developed after a year-long effort in which the civil rights organization interviewed more than 250 faith leaders across multiple denominations to identify best practices and challenges when addressing HIV within the Black church.
The NAACP says it will host seminars and workshops across the nation for pastors who want to get involved. For information visit www.theblackchurchandhiv.org.