For the 31 years that the US has been involved in the AIDS struggle, government has been fully engaged and involved (although slow to come to the table,) the medical community has been fully engaged and involved, social services has been engaged and involved and the church has been sitting on the sidelines or worse, sticking it’s head in the sand. This is not an indictment of the church, but an encouragement. Since HIV health disparities are greatest in the minority communities, it’s time the Black Churches take up this cause as a social injustice, just as they fought against racism in the ‘60’s.
It has been almost a year since the NAACP released ”The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative,” a manual that reframes HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue for church leaders. The manual was the organization’s response to the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS is having on the Black community and it outlines the role the Black Church can play. It was a call to action for the church to help right the wrongs and social injustice of health disparity in HIV. (http://www.theblackchurchandhiv.org)
Much of the church’s resistance comes for the fact that you can’t talk about HIV without talking about sex, a topic that church leaders have stayed away from long before the advent of AIDS. But many churches mis-frame this issue since a lot of people think it’s about “sin,” but it seems to be more about welcoming everyone in the church. The handbook can help pastors, ministers and congregations though the issues that they may find difficult.
Many LI Black Churches have answered the call, holding health fairs, calling on local community health organizations like LIAAC to do testing, outreach and counseling. Many have reached out to their congregations, being open and accepting in the hopes that they can overcome these obstacles and disparities that threaten their communities, but many more still have not responded. If you are a pastor, minister or priest, I encourage you to click on the link and download the manual. If you are a congregant of one of these churches, encourage your leaders to open their hearts and minds. LIAAC is here to be the community based health organization that the NAACP encourages black church leaders to reach out to. For more information call our hotline at 1-877-865-4222.