NAACP and Gilead Sciences Announce Commitment to Action at CGI

Onstage at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Annual Meeting, the NAACP and its partner, Gilead Sciences, announced a joint CGI Commitment to Action to enlist faith leaders as change agents to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS on the African American community. Over the next five years, this unique partnership will expand its pilot program, The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, to reach the 30 cities that account for nearly two-thirds of the nation’s HIV epidemic.

Roslyn M. Brock, Chairman of the NAACP National Board of Directors, commented:

The Black Church and the NAACP have been partners in the struggle for social justice for more than a century. Today, our fight is against a growing HIV/AIDS epidemic that disproportionately impacts the lives of African Americans.  For years, many felt that a discussion about HIV/AIDS had no place in African American houses of worship. However, the Black Church remains the cornerstone of our community and must be a critical voice and partner in helping to combat the HIV crisis.

Shavon Arline-Bradley, Senior Director of NAACP Health Programs, demonstrated the correlation between HIV/AIDS and social justice, saying:

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is not just a medical issue, it is a social justice issue.  HIV has increasingly attacked the African American community for the last three decades, leaving us with the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the country. Our program, The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, serves as a tool in the fight against HIV by giving faith leaders the resources they need to tackle this crisis in their churches.

The program focuses on three strategies: providing local trainings for pastors and faith leaders in the Black Church, obtaining formal resolutions from the mainline denominations to incorporate HIV as a social justice issue into Church activities, and facilitating the integration of HIV-focused coursework into required curricula of historically Black seminaries. Specifically, the program will:

Conduct 45 trainings across the 30 cities that make up nearly two thirds of the U.S. HIV epidemic across 17 states and the District of Columbia;
Help secure formal resolutions from seven of nine historically Black denominations to engage pastors in advocacy about HIV as a social justice issue;
Engage with predominantly African American theological seminaries and integrate HIV materials into required curricula into five; and
Train new full-time staff members dedicated to the initiative.
In the United States, African Americans bear the greatest burden of HIV, with the rate of new infections eight times that of whites. At the same time, African Americans are also the most connected to faith communities, with as many as 20 million congregants regularly attending church.

And faith leaders are picking up the torch and doing this important work.  Dr. Timothy Sloan, Senior Pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, had the following insight:

HIV has become an epidemic in the Black community that can no longer be ignored. Faith leaders must be called to action.  I have come to realize that not dealing with HIV is an act of pastoral irresponsibility. I am happy to be working with NAACP and Gilead Sciences to change the tide of this epidemic. HIV is in the church and the church must work to address it.

Read NAACP Chairman Roslyn Brock and Senior Health Programs Director Shavon Arline-Bradley's opinion-editorial about the initiative here.

And you can watch the video of the CGI presentation from Monday below: