Health and Family Services Cabinet
Public Health Works to Promote AIDS Awareness among Minorities
March 1-7 is Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS
The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is working to promote Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, an observance held March 1-7 that includes thousands of churches across the country.
As part of the observance, DPH and community-based organizations are inviting churches to participate in a “Prayer for the Healing of AIDS,” an educational event set for 6 p.m. March 1 at St. Paul AME Church, 251 North Upper St., Lexington. Free HIV testing will be available at the same location from 4 to 8 p.m.
“Churches and faith-based organizations, as entities people look to for personal guidance and support, can play an important role in promoting HIV/AIDS awareness,” said William Hacker, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Through the Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, we hope more people will become educated about HIV/AIDS issues and will be motivated to get tested, which is particularly important as it is the first step in linking people with HIV to medical treatment and supportive care.”
As part of the observance, pastors and clergy people are encouraged to discuss the HIV/AIDS epidemic with members of their congregations and become centers for HIV/AIDS ministries, education and compassion by partnering with their local health department or local AIDS community service to support HIV testing and education efforts.
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one in five HIV-infected people are unaware of their status and that these undiagnosed individuals are mainly responsible for transmitting the disease to others. Substantially greater numbers of African-Americans are living with undiagnosed HIV infection than other races. Among those living with HIV nationally, African-Americans (22.2 percent) and Latinos (21.6 percent) were less likely to be diagnosed compared to Caucasians (18.8 percent).
Data from Kentucky mirror national findings. Between Jan. 1, 2005, and June 30, 2008, African-American Kentuckians accounted for 35 percent of the cases that were concurrently diagnosed with AIDS during the same calendar month as the initial HIV diagnosis - an indication that a person was unaware of his or her HIV infection for the significant duration of time it took for the disease to progress to AIDS.
For more information about Black Church Week of Prayer and about HIV/AIDS prevention and testing, contact Beverly Mitchell or Michael Hambrick, prevention initiatives coordinators, at (502) 564-6539, ext. 3558 and 3560 respectively, or visit http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/epi/hivaids.htm. More information is available on the Black Church Week of Prayer Web site at http://www.balmingilead.org/programs/weekofprayer2008/what_is_wop.asp.