Recognizing the key role of clergy, “The East Bay HIV Faith Collaborative” will be the Eastbay liaison between faith organizations and the HIV/AIDS service community.
“Pastors and ministers have the ability to mobilize the masses”, said Rev. Terry Terrell, chief operating officer of The Metropolitan Interdenominational Church Technical Assistance Network (MICTAN), a national clergy-led capacity building faith initiative that collaborated with Alameda Department of Health, Office of AIDS, and local partners, to provide the trainings,
“Wemust recognize that they can be effective combating HIV if they were armed with appropriate information,” said Terrell.
Beginning in late 2012, the members of the clergy held monthly all-day meetings at the African American Museum and Library in Oakland, where they were equipped with the most medically up-to-date, accurate, science-based understanding of the methods, risks and consequences of HIV transmission.
Though HIV/AIDS is a universal issue, the fact is that more than 70 percent of new infections in Alameda County are among African Americans. The county has had a 15-year state of emergency due to African American HIV/AIDS transmissions.
“The faith community can lead the way in addressing the State of Emergency that exists through addressing stigma, and promoting testing, education and healing,” said Darice Bridges, one of The Faith Collaborative coordinators.
“It is now time for the clergy to put into action what they learned” in the monthly training sessions, added Bridges.
Rev. Kamal Hassan, pastor of Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church in Richmond, said he knew little about HIV/AIDS at the beginning of the trainings and was shocked by statistics showing the extent of the emergency that exists in the Black community.
“It is time for all churches to move from discussion to action” Rev. Hassan said.
“Two of my uncles died of AIDS,” he said “It was uncomfortable for my family to deal with the reality, so we didn’t discuss how they died.”