Ministers Encourage HIV Testing in New Orleans Black Churches
Seven ministers in New Orleans on Sunday took HIV tests in front of their congregations totaling more than 2,000 people in an effort to confront the stigma associated with the virus in the black community, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. HIV tests were offered immediately after the services at nearby locations or in the churches themselves. The Clergy Community HIV Testing Day Committee spearheaded the initiative in partnership with the HIV/AIDS Program of the Louisiana Office of Public Health and the NO/AIDS Task Force. Joseph Merrill, minister of the New Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church, participated in the testing and said that HIV is "no longer a white man's disease," adding, "We've been silent, quiet, absent. We've ignored it. We've been afraid to mention it." According to the Times-Picayune, 63% of people newly diagnosed with HIV in the greater New Orleans area last year were black, with nearly 25% of new cases occurring among women. New Orleans was ranked eighth in the nation in 2006 for AIDS case rates per capita, and Baton Rouge was ranked fourth, the Times-Picayune reports (Reckdahl, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 8/25).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.