More than 70 percent of the people who get infected with HIV in Philadelphiaare African-American. This staggering statistic inspired pastors and imams to get involved.
First African Baptist Church will be handing out pamphlets and discussing HIV during sermons.
Senior Pastor Terrence Griffith says as a preacher, he must follow the Bible’s teachings on sexual activity, but he also sees the bigger picture. He says, “I just can’t preach Jesus without taking into consideration the things that affect us sociologically…I’d be a fool to think preaching abstinence is going to get everybody to fall in line.”
Dr. Amy Nunn with Brown University has researched HIV in the city. She is coordinating the effort along with Philadelphia’s faith-based initiatives office. She says research doesn’t always reach the people who need it most. Nunn also says, “We have to have much more innovative partnerships where we bring people together from across sectors to solve problems in creative ways.”
Griffith says there is still a stigma attached to HIV but people are more compassionate these days.
“I think now that folks are more educated on the issue, you find a willingness among the clergy because when you look around, who are the folks being affected? The folks that are being affected are folks in our community. “
Some churches and mosques will be offering free HIV testing on site.