To our fellow Faith Leaders:
We send you this open letter to underscore the value of the faith community in eradicating new HIV infections in our communities and bettering the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS. We represent a group of five faith leaders who have personally seen the positive impact of implementing HIV ministries in our churches.
As ambassadors for The Black Church & HIV: The Social Justice Imperative, we translate our passion for raising awareness of HIV as a social justice issue into action. We preach about the intersection of HIV and faith and how faith-based organizations can serve as catalysts for change in thwarting the HIV epidemic in Black America. Historically, Black churches have spurred reform for a multitude of issues surrounding the Black community. These include civil rights, voting rights, education equality, and many more. Today, we ask you to rally with us against another challenge: HIV and AIDS in our communities.
As faith leaders, we understand broaching the subject of HIV and AIDS can be a hard conversation to have. However, the reality is that whatever is in our communities is in our churches. As trusted leaders of our parishioners, we have an undeniable duty to support and guide congregants through all challenges.
Having successfully implemented HIV ministries in our own churches for years, we are heartened to see others in the faith community making strides towards inclusivity of all groups – including those living with HIV.
Faith leaders serve a special role in the lives of parishioners; they fill a void that doctors or medical care alone cannot. We are blessed to hold these influential roles and for this reason, we are the ideal people to educate and support our parishioners impacted by HIV and AIDS, both mentally and spiritually.
In this spirit, the first-ever National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was founded. The day seeks to join Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Bahá’í, and Buddhist faith communities to unite as one on August 27 to reduce stigma and create a safe, supportive place for those living with HIV and AIDS.
Through The Black Church & HIV’s participation in this day, we aim to inspire other faith-based organizations to help their brothers and sisters work towards a future without HIV. Additionally, we will amplify the message that faith organizations stand ready to provide safe spaces and hope for all impacted by the epidemic.
We will be gathering at the White House to march and rally. If you can’t walk with us or aren’t in the immediate area, we encourage you to organize walks in your own town or join the conversations happening online around this day.
Together, we can inspire change in faith communities to ensure that safe spaces exist in all communities for those living with, or at risk for, HIV. The undersigned faith leaders are dedicated to this mission and believe that they too deserve our love, guidance, service and care.
Pastor John R. Faison, Sr., Senior Pastor, Watson Grove Missionary Baptist Church
Reverend Doris Green, CEO, Men & Women In Prison Ministries
Reverend Dr. Timothy W. Sloan, Senior Pastor, St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church (The Luke)
Reverend William Francis, Lead Servant, Atlanta Faith in Action
Tony Lee, Senior Pastor, Community of Hope African Methodist Episcopal Church