Top Clergy Fight HIV/Aids

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An assemblage of more than 150 of the nation’s top African American leaders convened in New York City for a historic National Conclave on HIV/AIDS Policy for Black Clergy, hosted by NBLCA and sponsored by Abbott.

This collective included congressional leaders, physicians, clinicians, and community activists, “spent two days creating a comprehensive, strategic, and measurable public policy and legislative action plan on HIV/AIDS that they will take to Congress, their state officials, and local legislative leadership,” said Debra Fraser-Howze, President/CEO NBLCA.  

Chaired by Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, III and Co-Chaired by Bishop T. D. Jakes, the collective’s HIV/AIDS Policy for Black Clergy mandates aggressive testing; the adoption of an ABC/D guideline behavioral model; and a call on congress and the administration to endorse and pass the National HIV/AIDS Elimination Act – which includes measurable goals, timetables, and specific objectives designed to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Following is their collective conclusive statement delivered by HIV/AIDS Policy for Black Clergy Chair, Rev. Calvin O. Butts, III and Co-Chair, Bishop T.D. Jakes:

In the spirit of our historic role of advancing prophetic social justice ministry, Black clergy are stepping forward to play a stronger leadership role in advocating for theologically sound HIV/AIDS public policy.  Working with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), we are determined to live up to the biblical mandate that calls us to be “the light of the world.”  With faithfulness to this calling, we must compassionately embrace those who are infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.  Through life affirming ministry, we are committed to caring for the physical, mental and spiritual needs of all people in our communities whose lives are being devastated by this insidious disease.

Just as African-American clergy fervently came together 50 years ago to fight for civil rights, we are banning together today to bring an end to HIV/AIDS and its potential to obliterate our community.  To combat this plague, which is claiming five to seven thousand lives per day worldwide and is destroying Black families and killing Black men and women at a disproportionate rate of genocidal magnitude:

-We will aggressively seek to have every person under the sphere of our influence tested for HIV in order to know their status. 

 -We will promote HIV/AIDS awareness to insure that all Black clergy serving in our denominations and other congregations are equipped to address issues related to this disease in a factual and scientifically sound manner.

 -We will use the ABC/D model as a behavioral guideline for prevention initatives: 

A -------Abstain;  B -------Be Faithful;  C -------Use Condoms; and,  D-------Don’t Engage In Risky Behavior.
To ensure that we are jointly using our resources to influence and impact public policy, our proposed legislative action, the National HIV/AIDS Elimination Act, is as follows:

-The National Conclave on HIV/AIDS for Black Clergy calls upon the President, Congress and Corporate America to declare the HIV/AIDS crisis in the African American community a “public health emergency.” We call on the Secretary of Health and Human Services to use emergency authority to redirect resources to address this emergency.

 -We believe the United States should develop a National AIDS Plan to address the treatment, care, prevention, research, and supportive service needs of Americans living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

 -We believe that an integral component of any National AIDS Plan should be targeted legislation that specifically addresses the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on the African Americans.  Therefore, we call on Congress and the Administration to endorse and pass the National HIV/AIDS Elimination Act – legislation that will mobilize action across departments of government and coordinate programs and funding across the various agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Act will include measurable goals, timetables, and specific objectives designed to eliminate the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  As a part of the National AIDS Plan, the Elimination Act will highlight and address the key structural drivers of the AIDS epidemic like poverty, low-literacy, stigma, unemployment, incarceration, racial disparities, and other structural drivers of the epidemic in the United States.

 -The Elimination Act will establish an Institute to document the historical treatment of African Americans and its impact on the issues that have evolved and must be addressed.  All agencies of the government should be involved in making this a priority.

 -We endorse HR 1943 Stop AIDS in Prison Act (sponsored by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles CA) that requires routine HIV testing upon entry and exit, counseling and HIV/AIDS treatment for federal inmates when medically indicated and linkage to care upon discharge.

As we go forward from this historic gathering, we are determined to stand together in a renewed effort to realize the day when the “face of AIDS” will cease to be the faces of the Black community.


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