Bringing Value, Voice and Passion to the Fight against HIV

Reverend Keron R. Sadler, NAACP Manager of Health Programs

Today marks the first day of the 10th Annual NAACP Leadership 500 Summit, a gathering that offers Black leaders from across America a chance to participate in thought provoking, interactive discussions and embrace the theme, “Generations of Power: Leadership is not a Title, it is an Action!”

This year, the faith community will share in the inaugural Faith, Health and Social Justice forum entitled “No Longer Silent: Answering the Call to Bring New Value, Voice and Passion.” For those of us who have accepted the call to preach the gospel, it is a fulfilling privilege that comes with great demands. Pastors, ministers and faith leaders continually provide a trusted voice and social consciousness to the Black community. The conversations held during the forum will focus on social justice and invigorate faith leaders to act as agents of social justice change for this generation.

The HIV epidemic persists as one of the most urgent issues of social justice in Black America. Did you know that African Americans bear the highest burden of HIV more than any other racial or ethnic group? If Black America were its own country, it would rank 16th in the world for new HIV infections. Blacks are more likely to progress from HIV to AIDS within one year of being diagnosed with HIV, less likely to know they have HIV or seek treatment, and more likely to die as a result of complications from AIDS than any other race. These injustices are not just related to race, but to social barriers that many Black Americans contend with daily including ones’ socioeconomic status, access to health care, incarceration and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

As the NAACP moves into our second century ensuring the civil rights of all Americans, we recognize that the HIV epidemic is a critical social justice issue within the Black community. In partnership with Gilead Sciences, the NAACP has come together with the Black Church to help people get informed, get tested and get treated through a joint initiative, The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative. In the fall of 2013, the NAACP and Gilead made a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to reach the 30 cities that make up nearly two-thirds of the nation’s HIV epidemic. Working through faith leaders, we are reaching into our communities to ensure that everyone is educated about HIV/AIDS and empowered to take a stand.

This issue is too great to ignore. As civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer said, “I am sick and tired of being ‘sick and tired.’” If we lead through our actions, as partners with the NAACP we will help those in our communities realize the importance of creating sustained changes in the fight against HIV.