Faith plays a major role in the lives of many people, offering inspiration, comfort, and strength. Sunday, August 25, is National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a time to combat stigma around HIV/ AIDS and to celebrate the unity of different people of faith across the country in the fight to end the epidemic. Many Americans have received crucial support from faith-based providers, including HIV testing, counseling, and linkage to health care, as well as basic necessities like food and housing. Public health programs have often partnered with religious communities to achieve improved health outcomes for people living with HIV.
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA) was among several organizations that partnered to launch the first Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in 2017, with the goal of rallying all U.S. communities representative of the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, and Baha’i faiths to take a stand against stigma and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. According to Amida Care independent board member C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of NBLCA, “Faith communities play a critical role in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We acknowledge the many faith leaders who are role models and create an environment of openness, trust, and honesty to help individuals and communities overcome stigma, shame, and fear.”
Among the leaders who have been involved in NBLCA’s Counseling, Referral, and Treatment program are Imam Umar Abdul Jalil of the Masjid Sabur Worship Educational and Referral Center in the Bronx and Reverend Patricia Morris of the New Springfield Missionary Baptist Church in Harlem. Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III, Senior Pastor, The Abyssinian Baptist Church, continues to be a leading voice among faith leaders in ending the epidemic. In addition to religious services, his church offers condoms, a needle exchange, and linkage to health care. In New York City, Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church has long been proactive in supporting people living with HIV and AIDS.
This Sunday, numerous places of worship will observe the day with special sermons, prayers, and other activities. Hopefully many more will join the faith leaders who are already working hard to end the epidemic.