Advocates Launch 19th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer To Raise Awareness About HIV/AIDS Among Communities Nationwide
Religious leaders, advocates and political officials nationwide on Sunday launched the 19th annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among black communities, the Charlotte Observer reports (Batten, Charlotte Observer, 3/2). The weeklong event is a national program sponsored by the Balm in Gilead, a not-for-profit organization that works to improve the health of blacks by focusing on life-threatening illnesses, the Omaha World-Herald reports (Bradley, Omaha World-Herald, 3/1). According to a release, the event aims to mobilize thousands of churches and millions of church attendees to support HIV/AIDS education, testing and care in the black community.
Pernessa Seele, founder and CEO of the Balm in Gilead, said, "By uniting leaders at the national level and providing local churches with theologically appropriate methods and materials for addressing AIDS at the grassroots level, the Balm in Gilead and its programs empower black faith communities to respond effectively to this devastating pandemic."
CDC figures show the number of blacks in the U.S. living with AIDS increased by 33% between 2001 and 2005. They also show that although blacks represent about 12% of the U.S. population, they account for about 50% of new AIDS cases. Black women account for the majority of new AIDS cases among women, and black teenagers ages 13 to 19 account for more than 70% of new AIDS cases reported among the population, according to CDC figures (Balm in Gilead release, 2/25).
The prayer week is an "opportunity for all Christians to examine our thoughts and behaviors," Bari Tiggett, a volunteer at the AIDS Leadership Foothills-area Alliance, said, adding, "The black church has the power and the responsibility to change the course of this epidemic. The goal is to provide prayer, leadership, compassion and information to help families in our congregation and community who are facing this disease" (Charlotte Observer, 3/2).