NAACP Urges Pastors to Hold Open HIV Discussions

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The NAACP is urging pastors in areas that have the highest concentration of HIV cases among African Americans to hold open discussions in their communities in observance of World AIDS Day. Far too many blacks face the trauma of this disease every day, however, as African Americans represent 51 percent of the new HIV/AIDS diagnoses and 48 percent of those living with HIV in the United States.

Pastors can help educate blacks about HIV risks

The new call from the NAACP for pastors to reach out to their church communities and hold open discussions on HIV and AIDS is an opportunity to bring awareness and education to this hardest hit population. Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP chairman of the National Board of Directors, commented in the NAACP release that “the uneven distribution of HIV infections indicates that there are specific challenges faced by the African American community that are resulting in an astronomical increase in the rate at which African Americans contract the HIV virus.”

An online tool that can track the prevalence of HIV in communities across the United States is the National HIV/AIDS Atlas, which offers the public, healthcare professionals, and policy makers access to local, state, and national HIV/AIDS rates at the county-level. The Atlas, a project of the National Minority Quality Forum, shows the intensity of the disease rather than its magnitude in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and New York City.

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According to a news release from the NAACP, blacks account for about 13 percent of the US population, yet they make up 49 percent of the people who have HIV and AIDS in the country. The accompanying statistics are also staggering: AIDS is the leading cause of death among black women ages 25 to 34, about 3 percent of black women and 6 percent of black men can expect to be infected with HIV during their lifetime, and HIV is the second leading cause of death among black men ages 35 to 44.

NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous notes that the organization is “committed to being a major force behind the education of communities,” and that “knowledge is the first step to better health and access to services is critical if we are to overcome this crisis.”

Results of a study published in the Annual Review of Public Health and conducted by the University of North Carolina pointed out that church-based health promotion interventions have the potential to reach a broad audience and hold much promise for reducing health disparities. In particular, the study’s authors noted that for African Americans, health interventions that include cultural and spiritual concepts are effective.

The NAACP has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health, the Act Against AIDS Leadership Initiative, and Gilead Sciences to help address the high prevalence of HIV among African Americans. Pastors and church-based interventions can play an important role in this effort.

SOURCES:
Campbell MK et al. Annual Review of Public Health 2007; 28:213-34
NAACP news release, December 1, 2010

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