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Mt.Hermon AME Church prepares for annual HIV/AIDS concert

admin | 11/30/2011, 7 a.m.

[gallery link="file" columns="4"] Little, if anything, surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic can make someone smile, let alone be optimistic. Yet, for the past several years, David Smith, the director of Mt. Hermon African Methodist Episcopal Churchs AIDS Ministry, has found a way to bring people together to smile, laugh and fellowship while they are raising awareness about the auto-immune disease at his annual AIDS Benefit Concert. Theyre rejoicing because theyre actually a group of people in South Florida who is actually helping people with HIV/AIDS, Smith said. Now in its ninth year, the Benefit Concert often features popular local gospel artists, liturgical dancers, mimers, a Community Choir and a free banquet. My main focus is on breaking the stigma of HIV/AIDS and opening the eyes of the Black churches in Miami, Smith explained. Were trying to get more churches involved in HIV/AIDS ministries. Mt. Hermon AME Church has partnered with several local churches including Mt.Tabor Missionary Baptist Church, Ebenezer United Methodist Church, Antioch Baptist Church, Bethel Apostolic Church and New Hope Missionary Baptist Church to name a few. In addition to the entertainment, the benefit will feature information presented by various community agencies including the Miami-Dade County Department of Health, Empower U, and Care Resources. Rapid HIV testing will also be available on the premises. According to Smith, this years event has made special efforts to reach out to area youth to educate them about the immunodeficiency disease. Were focusing on the youth this year because the statistics for the youths [HIV/AIDS infection rates] are so high, he explained. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black youth between the ages of 13 to 24, account for 55 percent of all new HIV infections. Yet the problem for newly infected individuals extends to their treatment as well, Smith said. He further explained, Even those who have test positive they often havent gone out to get their meds yet and they keep having sex. Terrance Cribbs-Lorrant, 32, a volunteer for Greater St. Paul AME Churchs Healthy Living Ministry, has also been helping to organize the benefit concert. Cribbs-Lorrant explained that adherence or the number of people who take their HIV/AIDs medications as prescribed is a big issue encountered across all age groups. The price of medication is really high and there is a waiting list for [financial] support, so you have a lot of people who dont take their medication because they cant afford it, they dont like the side effects or some people simply forget to take [it], he said. A concert for a good cause Although the concert itself is free, donations are requested. In previous years, the event has raised between $3,000 to $5,000, Smith said. Those funds are only used to help those infected with HIV/AIDS, Smith explained. In previous years, the money raised has been used on a variety of expenses from medication to living arrangements. The Ninth Annual 9th Annual HIV/AIDS Benefit Concert will be held on Dec. 10th at 4:30 p.m. For more information or to volunteer, please call 305-621-5067, 786-587-4048. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com