The Balm In Gilead, Inc.™ Launches Eighth Annual Our Church Lights the Way Testing Campaign
For Immediate Release
Black Churches Gearing Up to Conduct HIV Testing Across the Country
RICHMOND, VA,-- June 5, 2007…Churches across the country are gearing up for the eighth annual Our Church Lights The Way: The Black Church HIV Testing Campaign, a national effort that utilizes the power of the Black Church to encourage African Americans to take the HIV test. This campaign, which is a partnership between the Balm In Gilead and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), runs the entire month of June and culminates June 27th with National HIV Testing Day. The goal is to encourage Black Americans to get tested for HIV and to help Black churches become community centers for HIV education and information.
"Beginning the month of June and throughout the entire year, we are asking our faith leaders to keep the conversation of HIV testing on the table,” says Pernessa C. Seele, Founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead. "Taking the HIV test is an ongoing conversation that all of us must have with ourselves and each other. For sure, the African American community is perishing because of a lack of knowledge. We must get educated and take the HIV test to stop the spread of HIV within our community.”
The Balm In Gilead has been mobilizing churches across the country to do HIV testing for eight straight years. Many churches and health organizations around the country are participating in The Black Church Testing campaign and will be hosting rapid HIV testing sites throughout June and July. Some of these churches or organizations and their cities include: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and Low Country AIDS Services, Charleston, S C; American Red Cross of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, VI; Common Ground, Pittsburgh, PA; African American Faith Community for AIDS Prevention, Oklahoma City, OK; African American Hispanic Health Education Resource Center, Phoenix, AZ; Helping Hands Ministry Foundation, Mobile, AL; Baton, Rouge AIDS Society, Baton Rouge, LA; Calvary Community Outreach Network, Kansas City, MO; Florida Department of Health, Tallahassee, FL; and, the Chicago Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Chicago, IL.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Black Americans living with AIDS increased by 33% between 2001 and 2005 and although Black Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for half of AIDS cases. Black women account for the vast majority of new AIDS cases among women and while Black teens (aged 13-19) represent only 15% of U.S. teenagers, they account for more than 70% of new AIDS cases reported among teens.
Testing technology has evolved considerably over the years. Earlier conventional tests meant collecting data and sending it out to a laboratory. This would require the patient to return a week or later for the results. Today, there is rapid testing. Rapid tests (which come in both blood and oral versions) are done on-site and give a reading within half an hour.
Through collaboration with Abbott Laboratories, The Balm In Gilead will offer free OraQuick® Rapid HIV Testing kits to faith-based organizations who have registered to participate in the Our Church Lights the Way; The Black Church HIV Testing Campaign. For a limited time and while supplies last, registered faith-based organizations can request up to 200 Rapid HIV Testing kits per site. Some restrictions will apply.
The Balm In Gilead is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health status of people of the African Diaspora by building the capacity of faith communities to address life-threatening diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. As The Balm In Gilead continues its work in the African American faith community, including the recently launched African American Denominational Leadership Health Initiative partnership with the women’s missionary societies and council of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and The Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, it continues its international mission of building the capacity of faith communities in African countries including Nigeria and Tanzania.
To learn more about this and other church-based HIV testing programs, or how your church can participate in this year’s Our Church Lights the Way; The Black Church Testing Campaign, call The Balm In Gilead at 888-225-6243.
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