The Doors put it best in their song “Riders on the Storm”: “There's a killer on the road... If you give this man a ride, sweet memory will die.” A killer is on the road and loose in the African American communities throughout America, but it’s no Hollywood-manufactured masked maniac. The killer is HIV/AIDS, a disease that affects all ethnicities, but has a particularly frightening grip on African Americans. Fortunately, a hero is on the scene trying to make a difference through a non-medicinal method— the church.
A report from blackmenshealth.org quotes some frightening statistics from the Centers for Disease Control: “Black Americans account for more AIDS diagnoses than any other racial/ethnic group. In 1997, 52.25 percent of reported new HIV infections were seen in Black Americans.”
Of this 52.25 percent, men represent 35 percent, women 17.25 percent. These statistics are even more harrowing when you consider that Black Americans make up only 12.7 percent of the U.S. population. Want more numbers? Sixty-three percent of all new adolescent and young adult AIDS cases were Black Americans, and AIDS-related illnesses have become the leading cause of death for Black Americans between 25-44 years of age.
Why do these numbers shock us so? One explanation may be a lack of knowledge of prevention. Recognizing this, The Way of The Cross Community Developments Corp. Inc. is trying to bring prevention knowledge to the African-American community. A non-profit community organization led by the Rev. Dr. Nan M. Brown and the Rev. Arnette M. White, in collaboration with the First Baptist Church of Charlottesville, The Way is sponsoring a two-day HIV/AIDS Conference for African-American Churches.
“We Strive to Stay Alive” features four HIV/AIDS workshops, a five-person panel on community resources on HIV/AIDS, and a substance abuse and HIV/AIDS message and talks by two people living with AIDS. Sunday’s culminating activity is a gospel concert at First Baptist Church with singers from Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria and New Home Baptist Church in Landover, Maryland.
The Way of the Cross Community Developments Corp Inc., in partnership with the Virginia Department of Health, presents a two-day HIV/AIDS Conference for African-American Churches. All events, excluding a keynote worship service at Virginia Union University in Richmond, will take place at First Baptist Church on 623 W. Main St. The conference is free and open to the public. 293-7093.