Pulpits across America Come Together to End HIV

July 12, 2015 / By Marjorie A. Innocent, PhD, Senior Director of Health Programs

While the U.S. is taking steps forward in the fight against HIV, nearly 50,000 people were diagnosed with the virus in 2013. Almost half of those diagnoses were among Black Americans – a crippling statistic for a community that has long endured worse health outcomes than any other racial or ethnic group in the U.S. This threat to the survival and well-being of our community is a social injustice, and it is our duty to speak out, take action, and inspire advocacy for the health equity needed to end HIV in Black America.

Today, nearly 50 pastors across the country will come together to do just that in recognition of the fourth annual Day of Unity, the cornerstone of an initiative called The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative. These faith leaders are making a difference in their communities by preaching from the pulpit to the pew with messages about HIV as a social justice challenge, sharing the Day of Unity with their social networks, and acting through a testing drive or community event. By uniting faith leaders across the country, we are creating a movement to stop the social injustices that have led to the unequal impact that HIV has on Black America.

The commitments made in support of Day of Unity are just the beginning of something bigger. The Black Church & HIV is opening the door to an ongoing dialogue that will educate, support, and guide our brothers and sisters in HIV activism. Through faith leader trainings, seminary integration, and with the support of historically Black denominations, the initiative is harnessing the power of the Black Church to end HIV in Black America. The Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action made by the NAACP in partnership with Gilead Sciences in 2013 will help The Black Church & HIV engage faith communities in the 30 cities that make up two-thirds of the country’s epidemic.

As a long-time defender of health and education in the Black community, I am honored to join the NAACP and support the faith leaders who are serving as agents of change and touching the lives of those who are impacted by this disease. HIV reaches beyond individuals – it impacts families and communities and challenges faith. We all have a responsibility to raise awareness and elevate the conversation so it can no longer be ignored. As we recognize the Day of Unity today, what is your commitment?

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