I often post my weekly HIV/AIDS post on Monday or Tuesday, but I’m going to jump in and post it today, as the topic regards Sunday July 12. A link to the HuffPost story I’m quoting is below. The article is powerful and inspiring, and a must read in my opinion.

The black church has always been a place of power for the African-American community. It was where black leaders secretly preached the gospel of freedom to slaves meeting in underground churches. It was where clergy spoke against the injustices of segregation and rallied for the cause of civil rights.

And on Sunday, it will be the place where pastors preach in unity about the epidemic of HIV and AIDS among African-Americans.

The fourth national Day of Unity, organized by the NAACP, will bring the often taboo subject of HIV and AIDS to the pulpits of black churches across the country.

“Religion” in the most broad sense, when discussed in relation to LGBTQ content is most often seen as an oppressor and as anti-gay, because some use religion as their excuse to generate anti-LGBTQ animus. But here is a very powerful story of how the black church can be a space of real power in the fight against HIV/AIDS: (bolded emphasis is mine)

The Rev. Tony Lee, pastor of Maryland’s Community of Hope AME Church, is one of several African-American clergy members who regularly gets tested for HIV in front of all his congregants during worship services. The powerful visual is a reminder to his members that HIV awareness is an important part of the fight for social justice in the African-American community. And for Lee, it’s vital that the church is a part of this movement.

I’m with the Reverend Lee 150% Battling HIV/AIDS is an essential element in the fight for social justice for the African-American community, as African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Check out these statistics as published by the CDC.

  • African Americans accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections among adults and adolescents (aged 13 years or older) in 2010, despite representing only 12% of the US population; considering the smaller size of the African American population in the United States, this represents a population rate that is 8 times that of whites overall.
  • In 2010, men accounted for 70% (14,700) of the estimated 20,900 new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for African American men (103.6/100,000 population) was 7 times that of white men, twice that of Latino men, and nearly 3 times that of African American women.
  • In 2010, African American gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men**b represented an estimated 72% (10,600) of new infections among all African American men and 36% of an estimated 29,800 new HIV infections among all gay and bisexual men. More new HIV infections (4,800) occurred among young African American gay and bisexual men (aged 13-24) than any other subgroup of gay and bisexual men.

The reasons behind these statistics are easy to find via Google search, and I won’t comment much on it here: I want rather to focus on the way black churches, a space too often assumed to be anti-LGBT are leading a fight to stem a pandemic that is still all too real and all too deadly. Like poverty, like lack of access to social services, like disproportionate incarceration rates, HIV is another way the African-American community is under attack.

In Maryland, where Lee’s church is based, the proportion of young people ages 20 to 29 newly diagnosed with HIV every year doubled between 2003 and 2012 — jumping from 16 percent to 31 percent. The highest rate of new diagnoses is found in young people ages 20 to 24, according to Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

HIV/AIDS is not a gay disease, yet it is used as a weapon of shame against the LGBTQ community, and here in the US, new infection rates are highest among men who have sex with men, regardless of if they identify as gay or bi or not.

The larger LGBTQIA community has to care about issues that impact parts of the community disproportionately like HIV/AIDS within the African-American community, if we are to see further progress towards real Equality. And, at the same time, we must see institutions like black churches as spaces for change and progress. We cannot allow a few vocal opponents to LGBTQ persons be seen as representing all black churches.

Here is more about the NAACP’s Dy of Unity.

The Huff post story that served as a basis for my post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-church-and-hiv_559f5161e4b096729155e12a

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