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Area Black Churches Respond to HIV/AIDS Crisis


Kansas City, Mo. – Several local churches are drawing attention this month to a growing problem in the African American community: HIV/AIDS.

African Americans make up about 13% of the area's population but account for almost half of newly diagnosed HIV cases, according to the local health department.

In response to the crisis, about 30 area churches are participating in AIDS-themed events over the next few weeks. Ebinezer African Methodist Episcopal Church recently hosted the first of four Wednesday evening services. Reverend Arthur Carter led a responsive reading about AIDS at the event.

"In Kansas City, there are 4,617 individuals living with HIV or AIDS. Nearly 39% of these are racial minorities and 18% are women," Carter said. "76% of all women infected with HIV/AIDS in Kansas City are black women."

"We are witnessing the destruction of human life in our own communities," congregants responded. "Let us join hearts with the faith community in prayer, in spirit, and in action, to let our brothers and sisters living with HIV/AIDS in Kansas City know that God loves them and so do we."

A woman then spoke out for the first time about being HIV-positive and encouraged people to get tested.

Reverend Eric Williams has been involved with local HIV/AIDS initiatives for more than a decade and says black churches have become more receptive to the issue.

"Back in the old days, if we put an AIDS ribbon on it and said anything about AIDS, you could guarantee that the church wouldn't show up," says Williams.

Williams says despite the progress, not nearly enough has been done to deal with the crisis in the African American community. He says now that AIDS has increasingly become a disease of poverty, it isn't getting the attention and support that it once did.

Funding for health care coverage on KCUR has been provided by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.

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