Black Clergy ‘Committed’ To Addressing HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Community, Opinion Piece Says
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's "recent series on HIV/AIDS accuses [black clergy] of being unaware, inert and unconcerned about the AIDS pandemic" and did not note a "very important truth: The church is changing in response to this challenge, and people of faith are making a difference," Valda Jean Combs, a local pastor who heads the FullProof HIV Ministry, writes in a Star-Telegram opinion piece.
According to Combs, "Once educated on the depth and breadth of the challenge," the black religious community has "become aware of the truth about HIV and the truth about transmission, risk factors and the devastating toll the disease is taking on" the black community and has reached out to those "people who are hurting, meeting them where they are, every single day." She notes that the World AIDS Day Service in 2006, the "Seven Days ... Seven Churches" initiative in 2007, and the Black Church Week of Prayer in 2008 are "proof that the Black Church is committed to this struggle."
The series also "made no attempt to gauge support for HIV/AIDS initiatives among local black elected officials," who as "community leaders, ... have a responsibility to shine a light on community challenges," Combs writes. She adds that "there is often a deafening silence among [local] black elected officials about the pandemic."
She continues, "The Star-Telegram could have written about the dearth of [blacks] employed in decision-making positions by AIDS organizations in Fort Worth" or addressed the reasons why outreach efforts have been ineffective, instead of "repeat[ing] the same trite accusations that have been lodged against the Black Church since the beginning of this epidemic." According to Combs, some HIV/AIDS organizations have a history of difficulty hiring and retaining black workers, which "translates to an inability to plan culturally sensitive effective programs targeting" the black community.
Combs says she hopes the paper will "dig deeper, ask the hard questions and hold our collective feet to the fire." She concludes, "And while you're at it, visit some of the 'silent' churches in Fort Worth. I think you might be compelled to write a different story next time" (Combs, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 9/8).