October 08, 2007

African-American Leaders Step Up to Fight AIDS

From the Christian Post:

Over 150 of the nation’s top African American leaders, including megachurch pastor T.D. Jakes, are convening in New York this week for the first national conference devoted toward creating a plan to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic among the African American community.

The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) will host the historic National Conclave on HIV/AIDS Policy for Black Clergy at the AOL Time Warner building with a public news conference scheduled for Tuesday. The closed-door gathering, which began Monday, will be co-chaired by world-renowned pastors Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor of The Potter’s House in Dallas, and the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, chair of NBLCA.

The two-day meeting will mark the first time African American leaders from all sectors – including clergy, scholars, government and health agencies – have collaborated toward ending what Butts has called “a crisis” among the African American community.

While African Americans make up 13 percent of the population, according to a 2000 Census report, they accounted for slightly over half of the estimated 37,331 new AIDS cases in 2005. African Americans also lead other ethnic groups in the rate of AIDS diagnoses for adults and adolescents – ten times the rate for Caucasians and three times the rate for Hispanics. Even for new AIDS cases among children under 13, African Americans represented 46 of the total 68 cases.

"Once you hear the numbers, you realize the impact, the unthinkable loss of lives that we as a community are facing,” said Butts, who is senior pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church, the historic African-American church in Harlem. “You absolutely know that a lot of this could be prevented.”

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