CAN LOVE CONQUER STIGMA? Faith Communities In Kansas City Gearing Up to Fight AIDS Stigma!

(Kansas City, Missouri - February 26, 2014) --- The Balm In Gilead is proud to announce The 25th Anniversary of The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, March 2-9, 2014, which originated as The Harlem Week of Prayer for Healing of AIDS in 1989 in New York City. Faith leaders and congregations across the nation are mobilizing their communities for HIV prevention, screening and compassionate care for persons living with HIV. This year’s theme is: Can Love Conquer Stigma, which is an extension of last year’s campaign that launched a national faith-based discussion on AIDS Stigma.

According to Pernessa Seele, CEO/founder of the Balm In Gilead and creator of The National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, “The work of faith communities on HIV over the past 25 years has had a tremendous impact of the lives of persons living with HIV and in areas of prevention, treatment and care. Certainly, there is a lot more work needed. One such area of work is AIDS stigma. The stigma associated with this disease continues to drive ignorance, fear, increase infection rates and criminalization of persons living with HIV.

The dismantling of stigma must be led by faith communities because the nucleus of AIDS stigma is a belief that God punishes persons living with HIV; persons who are gay; and persons who are different in any way. Bad theology is why the church struggles with issues of HIV in the first place, states Pastor William “Bill” Lee of Loudon Ave. Christian Church in Roanoke, VA. Beginning March 3, The Balm In Gilead will be hosting a webinar series: Noon-day Prayer & Education! 30 Minutes of Power! This series will take place on Monday March 3 – Friday, March 7 at 12 noon EST. Led by some of the nation’s most renowned faith leaders, this empowering and informative 30 minute session will highlight new HIV/AIDS interventions and challenges. Some noted faith-based events during the upcoming National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS Sunday, March 2-9, 2014 include:

•Kansas City, MO: Greater Kansas City National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS Contact Pastor Eric D. Williams at 816-531-4683

•Rochester, NY: Week-long HIV programs at several local churches organized by Trillium Health, BLCA Rochester and Rochester Victory Alliance: Contact Jackie Dozier at 585-210-4126 or 585-760-3447 •Austin, TX: Pastor’s Testing Day at Simpson United Methodist Church; Organized by Black Faith Based Health Initiative: Contact Minister Joseph Collins 512-669-8503 •Raleigh, NC: Week-long faith based HIV programs organized by Alliance of AIDS Services-Carolina; contact 919-834-2437 •Indianapolis, IN: Week-long faith based HIV programs organized by Indianapolis Events Committee; Contact Rev. Jeff Wolfe 317-520-3036 •Opelika, AL: Little Zion AMEZ Church; Contact Mary Crenshaw 334-202-0734 •Miami, FL: Week-long faith based HIV programs organized by Churches United for HIV Prevention; Contact Rev. Darryl Baxter 305-978-7100 •Washington, DC: Week-long faith based HIV programs organized by Places of Worship Advisory Board; Department of Health. Contact Gertie Williams at 301-379-2785 •New York, NY: Faith Leaders & HIV Breakfast organized by Brooklyn Knows Community Partners and the Department of Health. Contact Jessica Allen at 347-533-4300 •Portland, OR: Week-long faith based HIV programs organized by The Health Authority Ministerial Alliance; Department of Health. Contact Dr. T. Allen Bethel at 503-288-7241 According to the CDC, more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 6 are unaware of their infection; Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly young black/African American MSM, are most seriously affected by HIV; By race, blacks/African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV.

About The Balm In Gilead, Inc. The Balm In Gilead is committed to a dynamic, community-driven approach that contributes to a lasting response to HIV/AIDS and other health disparities. The mission of The Balm In Gilead is to prevent diseases and to improve the health of individuals who are disproportionately affected by high rates of health disparities, especially HIV and other life-threatening diseases.

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