OAKLAND, Calif. (ABP) — A Baptist church noted for its internationally acclaimed HIV/AIDS ministry is taking a festive approach to a somber occasion — World AIDS Day observed annually Dec. 1.
Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif., planned a day of barbecue, entertainment and free HIV testing to rally the city's African-American community in the AIDS battle.
While new infections of the HIV virus that causes AIDS have decreased globally between 2000 and 2008, the World Health Organization estimated that 2.7 million people were newly infected in 2008 and 2 million people around the world died deaths related to HIV/AIDS.
In the United States, the disease is disproportionately high in the black community. The Centers for Disease Control said half of new AIDS diagnoses in the U.S. in 2008 were to African-Americans, whom according to the most recent Census Bureau estimates make up 13 percent of the populaation.
Allen Temple's groundbreaking AIDS ministry started in 1987 gained international attention in September when six of its volunteers were arrested in Zimbabwe on suspicion of practicing medicine without a license. Church members later told media that after confusion about their credentials was cleared up, they were invited back by the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health and hoped to resume mission trips to the impoverished African nation early in 2011.
In addition to its lifesaving work overseas, the ministry also provides HIV/AIDS related services to people in the east Oakland and neighboring Alameda County communities.
At this year's International AIDS Day program people will meet neighbors, share food and gain information about how to take action and protect their health. Local youth musicians The PopLyfe Project will perform. Comedian and activist Donald Lacy is master of ceremonies. Free HIV testing will run from run from 5 to 9 p.m.
Started in 1988, World AIDS Day is intended to raise money, increase awareness and improve education about and challenge the stigma of HIV/AIDS. It was first staged by the World Health Organization, until the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS — also known as UNAIDS — became operational in 1996 and took over planning and promotion of the annual event.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
Previous ABP story: