From March 2-9, 2014, many organizations and individuals recognized the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS (NWPHA), an annual HIV-awareness campaign that mobilizes faith communities and highlights the contributions and impact that congregations are making in HIV prevention, testing, direct service, advocacy and community engagement.
Now in its 25th year, NWPHA calls men and women of faith to prayer and action in breaking down AIDS stigma. National faith organizations, AIDS service communities, civic organizations and public health sectors have shown their support by working to engage local faith communities.
In Tucker, Ga., Alpha and Omega HIV/AIDS Foundation and Health Initiatives International, in conjunction with The Balm in Gilead, hosted a number of events focusing on prevention, education and outreach. "The Black church needs to be more involved with the epidemic of HIV/AIDS and needs to be more visible, available, approachable and knowledgeable about the effects of HIV/AIDS on individuals, families and communities," says Alpha and Omega founder and CEO Apostle YaQar.
Community Fitness Today hosted an event titled "If I Can Help Somebody" with Grammy Award-winning recording artist Ann Nesby in Minneapolis. Says event co-coordinator and 2003-2005 African American HIV University Fellow Linda Atlas, "HIV/AIDS is an issue dear to my heart as it continues to impact our community and generations that follow."
Many spiritual communities offered prayers and inspiration. Imani Community Church of Oakland, Calif., adapted a number of prayers from the National Episcopal AIDS Coalition for use throughout the week that centered on healing, unity, understanding and strength.
By promoting awareness of the need for faith communities to support HIV testing, health education and prevention interventions while offering unconditional love to those affected by HIV/AIDS, participants in the NWPHA prove that faith communities can play a greater role in ending the AIDS epidemic than many previously imagined.
Gerald Garth is a Los Angeles-based writer, actor and accountant who works for The Black AIDS Institute.