- Faith & Family
The fight to lower the number of HIV/AIDS cases has been addressed in a number of ways— from comprehensive health courses to political demands for more funding for those suffering from the virus. To raise awareness about the impact on the Black community, the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS (NWPHA) was established 23 years ago.
Last Sunday, March 4th, the events were held to kick off the annual observance. The theme for this year’s Week of Prayer is the “End of the AIDS Epidemic is in Sight with Prayer, Education, Testing and Treatment.”
To David Smith, who leads the AIDS Ministry at Mt. Hermon African Methodist Episcopal Church in Miami Gardens, prayer is a natural tool, in addition to education and testing.
In Miami-Dade County, which has some of the highest number of HIV/AIDS cases, local churches are hosting a variety of events and activities to commemorate the week-long prayer vigil. Events planned for this year include a Prayer Breakfast, a Community Prayer Rally in Liberty City, Youth Symposium and a Save Our Church Concert.
More local churches began coordinating their events to participate in the 23-year-old NWPHA after the group, Churches United Conference (CUC), was founded nearly eight years ago, according to the Reverend Darryl K. Baxter, the conference chair of CUC.
Among the South Florida churches participating this year in the NWPHA are Bethel Faith Apostolic, Hosanna Community Baptist Church, Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church, Tree of Life Holiness and Friendship Holiness Church, according to Crystal Lee, the co-chair of the Churches United Conference.
According to Baxter, more and more churches are choosing to address the rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections in their community but the message of prevention and education is spreading too slowly.
“We must become more comfortable discussing it, yet there is still a stigma associated with the disease,” said Baxter. “But almost all of our families have been touched by HIV/AIDS.”
Many people feel that churches have special resources to help combat the epidemic.
“The church is the strongest institution in the Black community,” Lee said. “So, we’re dealing with an entity that God has placed in the community.”
By Kaila Heard