A church out reach group and the California Department of Health Services have released a guidebook for pastors on how to deal with HIV and AIDS in their communities, the Los Angeles Times reported June 21.
The book, titled “Healing Begins Here,” is part of an ongoing effort to encourage black ministers to use their pulpits to help stop the spread of AIDS in the black community. The Department of Health collaborated with the Statewide HIV/AIDS Church Outreach Advisory Board to publish the guide.
In 1998, blacks accounted for 23 percent of California’s AIDS cases, though they make up only 7 percent of the population.
Churches have long been pillars of the black community, and organizers are hoping their involvement will mean a more effective way to fight the spread of the disease.
More black churches have confronted HIV as the epidemic has spread, but many pastors are still uncomfortable with talking about sex, homosexuality and drug abuse, which leads them to avoid the issue.
The guide is designed to help pastors get past their discomfort. It includes Scripture, sermon notes, full sermons and testimonials. One chapter offers a basic primer on AIDS. Another offers advice on starting an AIDS ministry.
A common theme in the guidebook is the need for frank discussion, especially with young people.
“The publishing of a book informs pastors that it is all right to deal with the issues from every possible positive perspective,” the Rev. Charles Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, told the Times. “Not only is it all right, here are some guidelines.”
For full text, go to the Los Angeles Times.