Charita Goshay: Don't ignore National HIV Testing Day
For 25 years, AIDS has been the pink elephant in the front pew. In keeping with Americans’ juvenile-yet-puritanical obsession with anything remotely having to do with sex, most faith-based groups don’t address it; the unspoken message being that God-fearing folks don’t engage in the kind of behavior that can result in HIV/AIDS.
The assumption that people of faith somehow are magically immune to the same temptations as nonbelievers and other assorted Philistines is naive at best, deadly at worst.
Though black heterosexuals are now the fastest-growing group of Americans contracting HIV and AIDS, the elephant rumbles with impunity in the black church. This is somewhat ironic because their faith is what undergirded blacks through the Middle Passage, slavery and Jim Crow.
The black church was the mother of the Civil Rights movement, producing such offspring as Rosa Parks, the Revs. Martin Luther King and James Lawson Jr., and countless deacons, ushers and stewardesses.
Most black Americans’ belief in an intimate and engaged God who is interested in your well-being runs as deep as their resolve.
So why are so many blacks suffering and dying in the shadows of black churches? The stumbling block for most black churchgoers is the manner in which people contract HIV/AIDS.
Certainly, there’s no getting around the fact that reckless behavior has consequences. But the same goes for porn addiction, diabetes, obesity and some cancers, doesn’t it?
How many stones can we really throw knowing we’re all standing hip-deep in rubble?
In conjunction with National HIV Testing Day, St. Paul AME Church in Canton, Ohio, will host free, confidential testing. The outreach is in partnership with the Stark Regional HIV Prevention and Education Planning Advisory Group. Child care will be available.
The Rev. Robert Dye, host pastor, notes that people needlessly are endangering themselves because even taking an AIDS test has become a stigma.
“It’s important that we support testing as a precautionary measure to ensure safe sex, as well as not to be responsible for the spreading of the virus,” he said.
“The church must see that the story of HIV and AIDS is not about epidemiology, economics or statistics. Rather, it is the story of pain, anguish, fear, and neglect,” said the Rev. Dwayne Brown, pastor of Jerusalem Baptist Church, a co-host and one of a few local black churches with an AIDS outreach program.
“The Bible tells us that when God sent his only son to Earth, it was to heal the sick and comfort the weary; to feed the hungry and clothe the naked; to befriend the outcast and redeem those who strayed from righteousness ... .
We must put aside our fears, exercise our faith and put an end to this deadly disease.”
You can reach Repository writer Charita Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail: email@example.com