There’s an old adage about the church not being a gathering place for perfect people, but a hospital for those who aren’t. Given that description of the church as a hospital, it’s sad that people with society’s most dread infection haven’t always found comfort in our churches. Things may not be as bad as they used to be, but those who are infected with the HIV virus or who have developed a case of full-blown AIDS may still encounter churches that have no room for them. Some congregations may still believe the infected are not their concern.
The NAACP is campaigning to get black churches to treat the high incidence of HIV in the black community as a social-justice issue, one that’s worthy of their advocacy. Black clergy around New Orleans ought to be especially concerned. According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Orleans isthird in the country for the most new cases of HIV infection. According to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, black Louisianians were, in 2011, linked to 73 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 76 percent of newly diagnosed AIDS cases.
Jennifer White, the NAACP’s program specialist of health programs, will be in New Orleans Thursday to train local clergy so that they may educate their parishioners about screening and prevention. A press release announcing White’s visit says that black Americans are getting infected at a rate eight times that of white Americans.
In a phone interview with White, I mentioned former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin “Magic” Johnson who announced almost 23 years ago that he was HIV-positive. We still see him on TV flashing that trademark smile. Could it be that the sight of such a famous person thriving with HIV has made the public complacent?
Source: NOLA.com | Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune