February 17, 2019
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Senior Bishops Walker, Graves and Bryant of Three Historical Black Church Denominations, along with Pernessa Seele, Founder/CEO of the Balm In Gilead, Call on Churches to Support HIV Testing Month in June

Richmond, VA (BlackNews.com) - The senior bishops of the nation's oldest Black church denominations are launching a national crusade to engage churches of all denominations to support The Balm In Gilead's 9th Annual Our Church Lights the Way! HIV Testing Campaign. Each senior bishop: The Rt. Rev. John Bryant, of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME); The Rt. Rev. George W.C. Walker, Sr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) and The Rt. Rev. William H. Graves, Sr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME) has produced a public service announcement to be used by churches, community and civic organizations and individuals, as well as all media outlets to encourage African Americans to take the HIV test.

The 2009 Our Church Lights the Way Campaign also includes a public service announcement with the combined leadership of The Rt. Rev. Yvette Flunder, Senior Bishop of The Fellowship and Senior Pastor of The City of Refuge United Church of Christ; and Dr. Katie G. Cannon, Professor, Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, VA along with the senior bishops of the AME, AME Zion and CME denominations.

According to Pernessa C. Seele, Founder/CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Our Church Lights the Way HIV Testing Campaign is a Call to Action from pulpits across our nation to encourage and support individuals to take the HIV test and to seek immediate care and treatment if test results are positive and for everyone, with positive or negative results, to live responsibility regarding sexual and emotional behaviors.

In 2007-08, the campaign resulted in a 300% increase in the number of African American churches conducting HIV testing programs at their places of worship. Faith-based testing programs often report a 100% return rate of persons receiving HIV test results. "The significance of faith-based HIV testing programs cannot be under estimated," states Ronald V. Dellums, Mayor of Oakland, CA and former US Congressman. "These institutions are respected cornerstones in the community and have a great role to play in the AIDS pandemic. The Balm In Gilead's model for engaging faith institutions in addressing HIV/AIDS is a successful global model for community mobilization."

Our churches must do far more to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in our communities. We have been so misled and misinformed about this disease. It is time for all of us to be led by facts and unconditional love regarding HIV/AIDS, states, Bishop William H. Graves Sr.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, approximately 2% of the African American population is presently living with HIV/AIDS. It is believed that 20,000 to 30,000 African Americans become newly infected with the virus that causes AIDS every year. "Most people in our communities do not know they have the virus in their bodies. Our churches must begin to realize its role in getting people tested and caring for all persons who are HIV positive," states Rev. Katie Cannon.

In 2005, The Balm In Gilead in partnership with the Women's Missionary Societies of the AME, AME Zion and CME denominations launched its African American Denominational Leadership Health Initiative. Today, this partnership has resulted in the establishment of a strong network of health ministries that support the service delivery of disease prevention and health promotion activities to local communities across the US, Africa and the Caribbean.

For your free copy of the public service announcements and other materials on how your church and community can participate in Our Church Lights the Way HIV Testing Campaign visit www.balmingilead.org or 888-225-6243.

The 2009 Our Church Lights the Way HIV Testing Campaign is supported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National HIV Testing Mobilization Campaign.




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