NAACP Joins Forces With Faith Leaders Across America For “Day of Unity” To End Black HIV Epidemic

New Initiative Launched to Address Social Injustices Associated with HIV in Black America

July 8, 2012

BALTIMORE – Today, on the eve of it's 103rd Annual Convention, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is mobilizing faith leaders from around the country and representing more than 25 cities to participate in the first annual Day of Unity, an event designed to inspire pastors to talk about HIV/AIDS as a social justice issue with their parishioners. Using the NAACP’s new manual, The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, clergy are talking to their communities about HIV as an issue of health equity. The release of this manual marks the inaugural moment when the NAACP is sharing its perspective on the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community and the integral role the Black Church can play in combating this disease.

With more than 21,000 churches in the U.S., the Black Church has the potential to make a significant impact in the battle against HIV/AIDS in the Black community. The NAACP is calling on faith leaders to recommit to social justice and fight for health equity for their congregants. The effort underscores the NAACP’s commitment to mobilize its members to turn the tide against the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Black community.  

“There is an immediate need for faith leaders to take action to address what is happening in our community,” said Roslyn Brock, Chairman of the NAACP. “Throughout our history, the NAACP and the Black Church have worked together to combat policies and practices that undermine human rights and social justice. Health equity is the fight for our generation.”

More than 30 years into the epidemic, HIV still has a disproportionate impact on the Black community. Blacks only represent about 14 percent of the population in the U.S., yet they represent 44 percent of the country’s new HIV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young, Black men and women, in particular, are experiencing rates higher than other demographics. Many attribute these differences to racial disparities.

When compared to other well-known social justice issues, HIV rates are on par with other systemic disparities. One in 15 Black men is incarcerated, and, similarly, one in 16 will be diagnosed with HIV during his lifetime. If Black America was its own country, it would rank 16th in the world in the number of people with HIV.

"For the first time in recent memory, our nation’s leaders have spoken of an AIDS-free generation," said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP. "Advancements in prevention and treatment have put the epidemic's end within our reach. But only if we act. Without action, the epidemic will continue to disproportionately affect our communities."

The Day of Unity encourages pastors around the country to:

• Announce a partnership with the NAACP’s Health Department in support of the manual launch at the 103rd Annual Convention on Monday, July 9, 2012;
• Preach a sermon about HIV as a social justice issue;
• Film a sermon about HIV as a social justice issue and upload it to YouTube to share with others;
• Include in church bulletins HIV educational materials that demonstrate the impact of HIV;
• Provide HIV screenings at churches in partnership with local health organizations; and
• Partner with other churches and/or health organizations in the city on outreach efforts.

“We hope that with the Day of Unity, pastors will speak about HIV from the pulpit, address HIV head-on and realize this is truly an issue of social justice for our community,” said Shavon Arline-Bradley, Director of Health Programs at the NAACP. “Words spoken by the pastors in our community can help dispel myths, reduce stigma and breakdown the walls that have prevented so many from getting tested and seeking treatment.”  

The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative was developed after a year-long effort by the NAACP. During this research phase, the NAACP interviewed more than 250 faith leaders across multiple denominations to identify best practices and challenges when addressing HIV within the Black Church. After the launch, the initiative will continue with educational workshops on HIV for clergy members in cities and seminaries around the country. These workshops will be conducted in partnership with local NAACP units and structured so that pastors are aware, engaged, and mobilized to create sustainable change.

For more information on the initiative, please visit www.theblackchurchandhiv.org.

Support for this initiative was provided by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

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About the NAACP
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.

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