The Deafening Silence of Churches in an HIV Epidemic

What's Going On

The percentage of people living in Washington, DC that are living with HIV or AIDS is amongst the highest of all U.S. cities. At 2.7% it is extremely high but it gets worse when looking at the percentage for African Americans only. At 4.3 percent the percentage of African Americans with HIV or AIDS rivals some African countries.

Many African Americans’ lives revolve around church and yet it is still uncommon for the HIV and AIDS epidemic to be discussed in church.

Since the early 1980 when the disease started to be widespread, many health officials have been critical of Black church leaders for not speaking about it. Many speculate that the spread of the disease has been made worse by the silence of the Black churches and them condemning  homosexuals and drug use. Yet others say that the Black church has been unfairly targeted in discussions about HIV and AIDS.

As the 19th International AIDS Conference that will be held in Washington, DC on July 22-27, approaches, Michelle Boorstein has encouraged local church leaders to talk about how the Black church will handle the epidemic. Michelle Boorstein is a Post religion writer.

Rev. Anthony Evans, president of the D.C. based National Black Church Initiative, also spoke out saying that the Black church allowed the 1980s to pass without dealing with the HIV and AIDS epidemic. Evans, who heads a network of 34,000 U.S churches said that that would change. Evans and his group have declared a national health emergency in the black church. The group plans to reveal a plan to encourage a year of celibacy in the churches. Said Evans:

“We want everyone to take a year off of sex and deal with who they are.”

Evans suggested using the year of abstinence to focus on God and also encouraged parishioners to get tested and deal with their results. The church leader also encouraged church goers to let their pastors know if thy were HIV positive and noted that  the black church is being criticized unfairly on the issue.

Evans went on to say:

“There is no question one of the weapons the gay community has against the black church and its opposition to same-sex marriage is saying we haven’t done anything to solve the question of AIDS. On one hand, they’re absolutely right. But I think from 1990 until today, the black church has moved mountains.”

Evans also said that a lot of people who are affected by the epidemic are affected because of their ignorance and need education programs.

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