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Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day celebrated in Detroit

By |2004-02-12T09:00:00-05:00February 12th, 2004|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – The Spiritual Warriors HIV/AIDS Awareness Project hosted two days worth of events in celebration of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness & Information Day at High Praise Cathedral of Faith in Detroit. While NBHAAD, a tradition that dates back to 2001, is actually Feb. 7, the Spiritual Warriors began celebrating a day early with an awareness breakfast and panel discussion on Friday, Feb. 6.
At the breakfast, Joyce Haddon, co-pastor of High Praise, told a crowd of about 120, “For you to get tested is the Lord’s will.”
Haddon also urged parents to be supportive of their children, and pledged that she would should HIV/AIDS ever infiltrate her family.
“I’d say, ‘that’s my child,'” she said. “And I’ll never turn my back on one of mine.”
But church leaders were both praised and vilified during the afternoon panel discussion.
“I’m glad this is taking place in a church,” said Nancy Allen of Urban Solution. “I think this is one of our best vehicles for communicating to our population.”
Selvy Hall, however, pointed out that the silence of the church could be deadly.
“I got my HIV from a church pew,” said Hall, who has been HIV-positive for 16 years, and infected with AIDS for more than a decade. “I got HIV from my choir director. It’s not about whom you have sex with. It’s about the risk factors. I was 27 when I got it, had been married and had children, but they said women couldn’t get it.”
Hall learned the hard way that anyone can get HIV, and moderator Charles Pugh, of WJBK Fox 2, stated that according to the World Health Organization, 75 percent of adults infected with HIV worldwide are heterosexual. The black church has long been blamed for silently standing by while AIDS ravages their congregations. Today, African Americans make up more than 90 percent of the estimated 7,000 people who are believed to be HIV-positive in Detroit.
“Unfortunately many of our church leaders are caught up in religion, which is a different thing,” said Rosalind Andrews Worthy, founder of Gospel Against AIDS. “I challenge you as church members to hold your leaders accountable. Hitler was not the only one responsible for the death of thousands of Jews. It was a silent church that stood by and watched.
“The silence of the church is killing us,” Worthy continued. “But today I can stand up and say – and the fact that we are here proves it – the doors of the church are opening.”
The church isn’t the only institution, however, whose doors need to open.
“In our school district we have not one Gay Straight Alliance,” said Imani Williams, who said that leaves parents with the responsibility of educating their children. “We have to talk as families, we have to sit down and talk.”
No one talked to Martinez Brown though, who was 18 when he contracted HIV. Today, at 24, Brown works as a youth advocate for the Horizons Project, and he has a roster of 200 HIV-positive people between the ages of 13 and 24 that he is responsible for.
“The curriculums have to change. We have to start being real about homosexuality,” he said, recalling the day he learned he was HIV-positive. “It was the most devastating thing that I’d ever heard in my life. I was thinking I was too smart to get HIV, that I didn’t fall into the categories to get AIDS. I happen to be a gay male myself, but you don’t have to be a gay male to get AIDS. The same way all of you were born is the same way that I was infected: unprotected sex.”
Pugh said the church also has to be aware that the children in their congregations aren’t always going to choose to practice abstinence, no matter how strongly that message is preached.
“You all are too young to be having sex anyway, but the reality is some of you are,” he said, addressing the youth in the crowd and urging them to use condoms. “You don’t wear a seat belt because you plan on crashing. You wear one just in case.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.