Twenty five years into AIDS crisis and many millions of death later, delegates of the National Baptist Convention USA, which ts the nation's largest black religious organization and the historic of home of many prominent pastors and politicians, will for the first time tackle; the issue of HIV/AIDS in the black community. The group is in St. Louis for a week-long meeting and for the first time its health forum will discuss the issue of HIV/AIDS in the black community, the Springfield News-Leader reports.
The 7.5 million strong denomination has never addressed HIV/AIDS as part of a larger strategy because of the stigma associated with homosexuality and drug use, which it regarded as sinful and as "something only bad people get," says Evelyn Mason, the groups' health director, That attitude is changing as new data show HIV/AIDS is claiming more lives. "The numbers dictate we have to pay more attention and take ownership," Mason said, "This disease has taken ownership of us."
A pre-event workshop Saturday at a Baptist church here was the first time Mason can recall hearing AIDS discussed in a church sanctuary. A workshop this week will teach 3,000 teenagers safe behaviors to prevent HIV infection. "This wouldn't have happened five years ago. There's a change within church leadership [and] within local churches," Mason said, adding, "We won't be passing out condoms, but we will be telling [participants] there's something called AIDS that they are likely to get if they do certain things"
As the National Baptist Convention finally discovers "there's something called AIDS" in the black community, some sobering recent data from the CDC: About 49 percent of all new cases are black and it is the leading cause of death for black men and women under 34 years old. Meanwhile, an estimate 46 to 49 percent of black gay men are positive. The prevailing wisdom has been that some of these statistics could have been reversed with decisive, early leadership from black churches and pastors.
Black Baptists Address AIDS [AP/News-Ledger]
Some Background ...
"Urban Rally Against AIDS" [R20]
The HIV Morning After Pill? [R20]
Black Gay Men and "The Pill" [R20]
Jonathan Perry in "The Advocate" [R20]
Primetime Reports Black HIV Epidemic [After Elton]
"Out of Control: AIDS in Black America" [R20]