Black churches in LA struggle with HIV, AIDS

The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to invade the African-American community and the black church continues to grapple with realities of this health and social crisis.  Churches in Los Angeles are still trying to figure out who will treat, understand, and support those who deal with HIV/AIDS in their community. New America Media reports:

When HIV/AIDS was thought of as a White, gay disease, it was often the suffering of Black patients that helped the world realize that it could affect anyone.

Today, African-Americans remain the racial group most acutely affected by the epidemic. And in the Black community, it is virtually impossible to discuss any social issue without understanding the role played by what has long been perhaps its single most unifying force: the church.

In past decades, as HIV/AIDS evolved into one of the most pressing issues among African-Americans, most religious leaders in South Los Angeles turned a blind-eye to the disease for a variety of reasons. Among them: discussing the disease meant having frank, often explicit discussions about sexuality — a topic historically treated as taboo.

Yet, it only takes one to stand up and call for unwavering action. Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray, who pastored First African Methodist Episcopal Church for 27 years until his retirement in 2004, was that such person. In the 1980s, he became the first African-American pastor in South Los Angeles to provide condoms and HIV/AIDS literature to local churches.

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