Of all racial and ethnic groups, African Americans are the most severely affected by HIV.
Forty-four percent of all new infections occur in African-Americans, even though they are only 14 percent of the U.S. population.
Shavon Arline-Bradley is the national health director for the NAACP.
She says the new theological toolkit will help pastors preach about HIV, and situate the disease in the ongoing struggle for justice in the black church.
“Now we’re reigniting the fire and saying here’s another big fight for us to win together. We won Brown vs. Board, we won voting rights, we won the Civil Rights Act, but I also know this epidemic, if we’re not careful we could lose another generation and we want to make sure that we take care of our future.”
There have been campaigns about AIDS directed at the black church before.
But those were more about health statistics and general awareness.
Arline-Bradley says this is the first campaign that uses liberation theology to help ministers preach about the disease.
It draws on scripture and a long history of black churches taking social action.
“If they don’t know how to talk about HIV from the pulpit or how to integrate HIV and social justice, this manual gives them the roadmap on how to do that.”
Dr. Timothy Sloan leads St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble.
“Who else should be leading this but the church?”
On Sunday morning Sloan will take a rapid-result HIV test during his sermon and then share the results with his congregation 15 minutes later.
“We’re going to do it right in the middle of service so hopefully it really highlights the importance of this and models the importance of taking these tests in order to be on the preventive side. I think the visual of their pastor taking the test, it’s going to be critical.”
After the service, congregants will be able to take their own HIV test and get counseling on the results right away.
Arline-Bradley says 40 pastors across the country will be conducting similar campaigns from the pulpit on Sunday, either getting tested or preaching about the epidemic.