The Fight to Save Lives Continues

On a recent Sunday morning, church-goers in Baltimore piled into their places of worship expecting to hear a sermon on an epic battle. To the surprise of many, the battle the pastor spoke of was not between David & Goliath but between the black community and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Over the past three decades the HIV/AIDS epidemic has plagued African American communities throughout the country. Countless families have endured the pain of losing a loved one to this disease.

We know that minorities are disproportionately affected by this disease. African-Americans represent approximately 14 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for almost 46 percent of people living with HIV in 2008, and constituted an estimated 44 percent of new infections in 2009.

While this is our past, we cannot allow it to be our future.   It is time to take bold action. We have joined thousands of families on the frontlines of the fight to end this epidemic, and we’re bringing faith leaders from across the country with us.

Addressing this issue head-on, the NAACP and Gilead Sciences launched The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative pilot and, over the past two years, we have forged partnerships with Black faith leaders to drive communities to take action and stop the social injustices that have led to the unequal impact HIV is having in our neighborhoods.

I am proud to announce that the NAACP is expanding our role in this critical fight. In partnership with Gilead Sciences, we have made a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to enlist more Black faith leaders to tackle the severe and disparate impact of HIV on African Americans. Building on the momentum of The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, our joint Commitment to Action aims to engage nearly 20 million Black congregants across the United States in the social justice fight to end the HIV epidemic in Black America.

CGI’s Commitment to Action is a plan that presents an innovative approach to combat a prevailing challenge. Over the next five years, the NAACP Commitment plan will focus on 30 cities that make up nearly two-thirds of the nation’s HIV epidemic. Among them are Oakland, San Antonio, Charlotte and Memphis.

Through pastor trainings and incorporating HIV as a social justice issue into church activities, we will fight this epidemic together and ensure that future generations of Black Americans grow up HIV-free.

The black church and the NAACP have been partners in the struggle for equity and justice since the inception of our organization in 1909. Now the Clinton Global Initiative is joining with the black church to amplify her power as the prophetic and progressive voice in the African American community. Together we can exhibit the courage to end this social injustice and save lives.