Baltimore Sun (12.06.11) - Thursday, December 15, 2011
As part of Baltimore's recently announced plan to cut new
HIV/AIDS cases by 25 percent over the next four years, the
city is recruiting churches as partners in areas where the
disease is concentrated.
"The church is a foundation of bringing people together," said
Oxiris Barbot, the city health commissioner. "We need them to
help get out the message about AIDS."
Barbot said the city can work with churches to approach the
subject in broad, general terms. Some churches may not feel
comfortable giving out free condoms. Others may give out
literature, but not want to talk about HIV/AIDS from the
pulpit. "We want people to know we will meet them where they
are," she added.
The Rev. Keron Sadler saw that diversity when working on an
NAACP initiative to get churches more active in HIV/AIDS
education nationwide. Discussing HIV/AIDS means delving into
topics - homosexuality, non-monogamous sexual activity, and
drug use - that churches may not wish to appear as embracing
or condoning. While some ignore the subject, others only
approach it in a judgmental way, leaving some at-risk
individuals reluctant to seek help.
"We are trying to work with opinion leaders, which are often
religious and community leaders, to recognize that
stigmatizing attitudes have a profoundly negative effect on
prevention," said William Blattner, chair of the Baltimore
City Commission on HIV/AIDS and associate director of the
Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland
School of Medicine. "We are trying to get them to recognize
we're here to help people, not judge them, and get pastors to
have a more enlightened approach."