Church leading fight against HIV and AIDS
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CHARLOTTE--New cases of HIV are on the rise in Mecklenburg County and the disease is having a disproportionate impact on African Americans.
“Being in the Bible Belt, you just don't discuss it. You don't really discuss it at church,” said AIDS nurse Tamara Neely.
Its not the first place many might think they'd go to learn about about HIV and AIDS.
But with Mecklenburg County leading North Carolina in new cases of HIV, the Pastor at The Rock Worship Center said it's time for the Black church to tackle AIDS head on.
“As much as we teach and we preach about the Gospel and the way people should lead their lives, this is still growing in our community,” said Pastor Frank Jacobs, with the Rock Worship Center.
Each week, seven people in Mecklenburg County are diagnosed with HIV and one person for every day.
Frank Jacobs' church has joined with the Carolinas CARE Partnership to offer members confidential HIV and AIDS testing on the grounds of his two churches.
Despite critics who argue the church shouldn't be involved in combating the disease, which can be spread through sexual activity, Jacobs said he's got a mandate to educate his members.
“Its critical for us to do this on a Sunday morning when we have hundreds of people sitting in the seats. We'll give up some time to make sure people are educated about these risks,” said Jacobs.
Those working on the church's anti-AIDS efforts said the disease will only take more of a hold on Charlotte if the larger faith community continues to look the other way.
“We all know what God wants us to do, but the reality is not everyone is actually doing it. And if you're not doing it, at least protect yourself,” said AIDS educator, Veronica Jones.
It's with that knowledge that Pastor Jacobs said he'll use to continue his church's HIV/AIDS work on Sundays to come.