African American church leaders have issued a call to action to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in Mississippi. The state ranks 7th in the nation for the number of new cases of the disease and three quarters of them are African American. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports.
More than 30 pastors met with health officials in Jackson yesterday to discuss ways to fight what's being called an AIDS epidemic in the Black community. Roderick Richardson is the Senior Pastor of the Word Center in Jackson.
"I know traditionally many people think that HIV and AIDS is a natural issue and the church deals with spiritual issues. However, the 21st century church must deal with the holistic man, the spirit, soul and the body. So when we have something as detrimental as HIV and AIDS impacting our own people I think that it is important that we use our influence to address that issue as well.."
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, African Americans make up about 37 percent of the state’s population. However, blacks account for more than three fourths of new HIV cases. Those are alarming statistics for Andre' Harris, Pastor of New Jerusalem Baptist Church in Cleveland.
"HIV and AIDS is growing in the Mississippi Delta so we're just trying to collect Intel in order to to fight this disease. But its gonna take the entire community . An old African proverb is it take a village to raise a child so we need to go back to those proverbs to make sure that we are doing everything in our power."
Over the years the black churched has addressed a number of social issues. But C.J. Rhodes, Rector of Oakland Chapel at Alcorn State University says the church has been slow to react to HIV/AIDS because it relates to sex and sexuality.
"And so I think in the same way that we've addressed obesity and high blood pressure and stroke awareness, all these other things. We need to say look this is the disease. However you got it, hey you got it now, how do we tend to it care for it and allow you to be an ambassador to others so that you can in tern help others not contract it."
More than 10 thousand Mississippians are currently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Lawayne Childrey, MPB News.