A Clarion Call to Fight HIV/AIDS
By Judith Santiago*
March 4, 2011-- The first ever African-American Women and HIV/AIDS conference sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund opened Thursday night March 3 at Wesley United Methodist Church in Columbia, South Carolina. Featured speaker, the Rev. Telley Lynette Gadson, pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sumter, South Carolina, issued a clarion call for the church to respond to and fight the HIV/AIDS crisis.
Gadson referenced Isaiah 58:1, which reads, “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.” Gadson strongly urged the church to sound the alarm, do what is right and not what is comfortable in its response to AIDS.
“It’s a sin to act like it (HIV/AIDS) doesn’t affect us,” said Gadson who compelled the church to break out of its “conscious rebellion” in its lack of response to HIV/AIDS. Throughout her sermon, Gadson stirred the crowed repeatedly by asking, “Do you get the message? Do you get the message?”
Yannick McKie, founder and executive director of the McKie Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that helps children across the country turn their adversities into purpose, shared his story of how he lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. In fact, McKie is reportedly one of the first children in the US to lose both parents to AIDS.
His exhortation of the biblical account of Jesus healing a leper drove three simple messages to the heart of listeners: Jesus cared, Jesus was not afraid, and Jesus got involved. McKie urged the church to do same in its response to HIV/AIDS.
Enabling, Enriching, Enhancing Individuals
The three-day conference entitled “Enabling, Enriching, Enhancing Individuals,” concludes Saturday, March 5, and will address how HIV/AIDS specifically impacts African-American women. The conference will focus on issues such as stigma, cultural behaviors, prevention, and socioeconomic factors that promote the spread of AIDS.
The goal of the event is to create an opportunity to enable, enrich, and enhance individual capacity to reach out to those affected by HIV/AIDS, and address the impact of AIDS on African-American women in the US.
The UM Global AIDS Fund hopes this landmark conference will be the first in a series of efforts by United Methodists to reach out to church and society and continue to fight against this deadly pandemic.
African-American Women and AIDS
According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime. In South Carolina, over 75 percent of new HIV infections occur among African-American women.
Dr. Bambi W. Gaddist, executive director, South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council, is scheduled to discuss the state of HIV/AIDS in the African-American Community in her address on Friday, March 4.
Developing an Effective HIV/AIDS Ministry; The Basics of HIV Testing and Counseling; and Women and Domestic Violence and its contribution to HIV/AIDS are some of the workshops to be offered in this conference.
Other featured speakers include the Rev. Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson, associate professor of Old Testament, Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Illinois; Dr. Irma Clark, chair, Northern Illinois Conference on HIV/AIDS; Mrs. Vivian Clark-Armstead, rapid testing coordinator, South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council; Patricia Longstroth, Chaplain, Rose Brooks Center, Kansas City, Missouri; and Minister Yannik McKie, executive director, The McKie Foundation, Atlanta, Georgia.
20/20, United Methodist Global AIDS Fund
Last October, the UM Global AIDS Fund launched 20/20: Visioning an AIDS-Free World campaign. For a commitment of $20 a month or more until the year 2020, United Methodists and friends can stop the transmission of HIV from mother to child, teach young adults about HIV prevention, and feed an HIV-positive person so that she or he will be able to take their medicine.
The Fund, established at the 2004 General Conference, is hoping that this campaign will help supporters realize the tangible difference they can make, through small, consistent contributions, in the lives of those affected by AIDS.