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Atlanta Reverend Efforts To Raise HIV/AIDS Awareness Among Black Community

Armen Hareyan's picture

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday profiled the Rev. William Sheals of the Norcross, Ga.-based Hopewell Missionary Baptist Churchand his efforts to fight the spread of HIV in the area's blackcommunity. According to Sheals, Hopewell's efforts to raise awarenessabout HIV/AIDS in the black community began in 1993 when a member whowas living with AIDS died of a related illness. Following the death,the church hired an HIV/AIDS director to work with a registered nurse,and the church three times annually hosts a health fair with theDuluth, Ga.-based advocacy group AIDGwinnett.

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Inaddition to Hopewell, a number of metro Atlanta congregations haveinvited HIV/AIDS groups to conduct prevention classes and rapid HIVtesting. Some churches also have established ministries focused onHIV/AIDS and other health issues and offer health screenings and HIVtests alongside choir rehearsal and Bible study, the Journal-Constitution reports. In addition, AIDGwinnett, CDC and Emory Universityhave partnered with black congregations in the Atlanta metro area topromote HIV prevention. George Roberts, associate director forprevention partnerships at CDC, said, "We see faith as an importantelement in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS' impact onAfrican-Americans because we reach people where they live, work, playand worship."

Sheals said he would like to see more churchespublicly address HIV/AIDS issues. "We have a captive audience," hesaid, adding, "I encourage leaders in our community -- faith-based andsecular and especially pastors -- to speak up and speak out. Silence isdeath. Information is power and life" (Bonds Staples, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/11).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . TheKaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service ofThe Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.