Cultural Resources




Sunday, December 2, 2012 (World AIDS Day is December 1, 2012)

The African American Lectionary Cultural Resource Team

  “The Black Church is the only institution that has loved our
people from the cradle to the grave. We loved them through
slavery, through poverty, and through racism. We cannot make
HIV the exception to our love. As the Mother Institution, we must
love our people through the valley of HIV.”
—Bishop John Bryant, AME, 4th Episcopal District

I. Expectancy, Advent, and HIV/AIDS

This year’s Lectionary commentary writer, Lectionary team member Dr. Raquel St. Clair Lettsome, said in the commentary unit for today:

As I have matured as a Christian and as an adult, I find that it is no longer enough to approach this season solely expecting God. God is a given—God will show up. The question I now ask myself is: Will I show up in the ways, in the places, and for people as God expects?

Dr. St. Clair Lettsome has raised the million-dollar question. In this Advent Season and in all seasons, God is a given—God will show up. The question is, will we?

Although we may not know the specific numbers, many African American Christians are well aware that HIV/AIDS is still a plague that is doing great harm in our community and around the world. The question is, will we stand up and show up to do anything more than talk about HIV and AIDS? Yes, the African American Church has a venerable history. The question is what have we done lately? Those battling HIV/AIDS are waiting to hear from the Church. Will our response be clouded by the current gay marriage debate or by the church’s historically conservative stance on homosexuality? Will we deliver a few sermons here and there about the need for our people to avoid sex outside of marriage and for gay men to stop living down-low lives? Or, will we really show up?

The HIV/AIDS crisis in the African American community presents a unique opportunity for us to return to our roots of activism grounded in love, community building, and social change. Other than gaining quality education for our children and stemming African American male violence and incarceration, HIV/AIDS may be the biggest challenge facing this generation. Regardless of one’s stance on gay marriage or homosexuality, HIV/AIDS and its devastating effect on the Black community must be addressed given that it is a major health crisis. See section VI of this unit for ways your church, regardless of its size, can begin to get involved TODAY.

II. Sobering Numbers

Here are some sobering numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

Among racial/ethnic groups, African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV in the U.S. While blacks represent approximately 14% of the U.S. population, they accounted for almost half (46%) of people living with HIV in the U.S. in 2008, as well as an estimated 44% of new infections in 2009. HIV infections among blacks overall have been roughly stable since the early 1990s.


Prejean J, Song R, Hernandez A, Ziebell R, Green T, et al. (2011) Estimated HIV Incidence in the United States, 2006-2009. PLoS ONE 6(8): e17502. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017502.

This overview highlights key information about those most affected by HIV/AIDS in the United States and reflects the most current data available from CDC as of March 2012. Creating an overview of the HIV epidemic in the U.S. requires combining different indicators of the epidemic, such as prevalence, incidence, transmission rates, and deaths. Therefore, multiple measures are used to provide a comprehensive picture of HIV in this country. The most current indicators reflect different years because of the time it takes to collect, compile, analyze, and summarize HIV/AIDS data from all the states. For more information on the incidence and prevalence of HIV and AIDS, including definitions of terms and how trends are tracked, visit the CDC’s HIV/AIDS Statistics and Surveillance. For information about HIV and other risk populations, including women, youth, older Americans and other racial/ethnic minority populations as well as data by state or region and about AIDS diagnoses, visit

*The term men who have sex with men (MSM) is used in CDC surveillance systems. It indicates the behaviors that transmit HIV infection, rather than how individuals self-identify in terms of their sexuality. Such individuals may or may not self-identify as gay or bisexual men.1

African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States. Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths.

The Numbers

New HIV Infections

  • In 2009, black men accounted for 70% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. The estimated rate of new HIV infection for black men was more than six and a half times as high as that of white men, and two and a half times as high as that of Latino men or black women.

  • In 2009, black men who have sex with men (MSM)2 represented an estimated 73% of new infections among all black men, and 37% among all MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29) than any other age and racial group of MSM. In addition, new HIV infections among young black MSM increased by 48% from 2006–2009.

  • In 2009, black women accounted for 30% of the estimated new HIV infections among all blacks. Most (85%) black women with HIV acquired HIV through heterosexual sex. The estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women was more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.

Estimates of New HIV Infections in the United States, 2009, for the Most-Affected Subpopulations

Subpopulations representing 2% or less of the overall US epidemic are not reflected in this chart.

HIV and AIDS Diagnoses and Deaths

  • From 2006–2009, the estimated number and rate of HIV diagnoses among blacks remained stable in the 40 states with long-term confidential name-based HIV reporting.

  • At some point in their lifetimes, an estimated 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 32 black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection.

  • In 2009, an estimated 16,741 blacks were diagnosed with AIDS in the US, a number that has slowly decreased since 2006.

  • By the end of 2008, an estimated 240,627 blacks with an AIDS diagnosis had died in the US. In 2007, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death for all blacks and the third leading cause of death for black women and black men aged 35–44.

Prevention Challenges

African Americans face a number of challenges that contribute to the higher rates of HIV infection.

The greater number of people living with HIV (prevalence) in African American communities and the fact that African Americans tend to have sex with partners of the same race/ethnicity means that they face a greater risk of HIV infection with each new sexual encounter.

African American communities continue to experience higher rates of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) compared with other racial/ethnic communities in the US. The presence of certain STIs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV. Additionally, a person who has both HIV and certain STIs has a greater chance of infecting others with HIV.

The socioeconomic issues associated with poverty, including limited access to high-quality health care, housing, and HIV prevention education, directly and indirectly increase the risk for HIV infection and affect the health of people living with and at risk for HIV infection.

Lack of awareness of HIV status can affect HIV rates in communities. Approximately 1 in 5 adults and adolescents in the US living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. This translates to approximately 116,750 persons in the African American community. Late diagnosis of HIV infection is common, which creates missed opportunities to obtain early medical care and prevent transmission to others. The sooner an individual is diagnosed and linked to appropriate care, the better the outcome.

Stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, and negative perceptions about HIV testing can also place too many African Americans at higher risk. Many at risk for infection fear stigma more than infection and may choose instead to hide their high-risk behavior rather than seek counseling and testing.

African Americans face the most severe burden of HIV of all racial/ethnic groups in the United States (US). Despite representing only 14% of the US population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44% of all new HIV infections in that year. Compared with members of other races and ethnicities, African Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of disease—from new infections to deaths.3

III. Act Aware

Act Aware is a national program that attempts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS year-round. The following information is provided from their website:

Act Aware

On World AIDS Day—and all year round—we’re asking you to Act Aware. Acting aware means finding out the facts about HIV and using this knowledge to protect yourself and others from HIV infection.

Many people do not understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, or the reality of living with HIV today. People living with HIV can also still face stigma and discrimination from society.

Want to do something about this? Visit HIVaware—a fun, interactive new website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV.4

IV. NAACP National HIV/AIDS Initiative

Shavon L. Arline-Bradley, Director, Health Programs Department of the NAAP, writes5:

It has been over two and a half years since the NAACP launched the Let it Rise Tour in 11 cities across the country seeking answers to one key question: What do Black faith leaders need to reignite their social justice fire and address one of Black America’s biggest foes: the HIV/AIDS epidemic? This epidemic is a social justice issue that for the last 31 years has infiltrated our community with a vengeance. African Americans are just under 14% of the United States’s population but represent almost 50% of all new HIV cases. This is a painful truth, but even more alarming as it gets closer and closer to each one of us. However, if we continue to view the HIV epidemic as “someone else’s” problem and not an issue that WE need to address, what will happen to the future of our community?

It has been a personal mission of the NAACP Health Programs Department to help reignite a health equity movement in Black America, with a special focus on HIV. The longest-standing community institution that has withstood the test and trials of time has been the Black Church. Historically, the sanctuary has been the place where we gathered to hear a word from the Lord and receive inspiration to fight for equality. Today, the NAACP is calling on Black Church leaders once more to participate in the rebirth of a movement to fight for justice and improve our community’s health and well-being.

The Black Church and HIV: The Social Justice Imperative is a tool for Black Church leaders to assess and identify their role in this fight. It will speak to the heart of those who have been in the fight against HIV, those who have perhaps addressed it once or twice, and even those who have never dealt with HIV prevention in their tenure as a leader. Whatever your level, we ask you to choose this day to commit to A.C.T. (advocacy, community mobilization & education, training) and the NAACP Health Programs Department will support you through this journey.

So what will you do? Will you conduct business as usual? Or will you join us and shout about this injustice? The thousands of lives affected by HIV and AIDS in your congregations can no longer wait for someone else. We ask you to support those in our community who feel they have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. The Black Church and the NAACP are a winning team and will fight until this battle is over!

V. Fighting Against AIDS by Fighting Discrimination in Uganda

African American Pastors Express Support For LGBTI Ugandans6

Black Pastors Express Support for LGBT Ugandans: As persecution intensifies, churches and groups that support LGBT People in Uganda are at risk.

A group of influential conservative and progressive African American pastors released a statement today in collaboration with the Global Justice Institute and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights (RFK Center) to challenge Uganda’s rising tide of persecution against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The statement, addressed to Uganda’s top Christian leaders and signed by more than 30 African American faith leaders, invokes Christian principles to call for an end to the use of religion to justify persecution.

The statement says in part: “We are deeply concerned that Christian leaders would support policies that censor and harm LGBT people, their families, and communities. Such laws undermine the very lynchpins of freedom and democracy, the right to free expression… We may have some theological differences among us, but we agree that we should not make criminals of those with whom we disagree.”

African American pastors responded to top religious leaders in Uganda increasing their demand for passage of the internationally condemned Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Even without the death penalty, the bill could be used to silence and imprison anyone suspected of supporting LGBT people in Uganda.

“Not only does the Anti-Homosexuality Bill threaten to silence our advocacy, it would also deprive Uganda’s LGBT community of the ability to practice our religion freely,” said Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and 2011 RFK Human Rights Award Laureate. “Support from such prominent African American faith leaders gives us hope that our own clergy may one day stop preaching hate and LGBT people might again have access to places of worship in Uganda.”

Support among African Americans is growing in the face of actions such as a raid of a human rights workshop ordered by Uganda’s Minister of Ethics and Integrity. Government officials then announced plans to “ban” 38 groups who advocate for the human rights of LGBT people in Uganda. Samuel L. Jackson, noted actor, spoke out about Uganda at the BET Awards telecast nationwide on Sunday, July 1. Of paramount concern is the safety of such dignitaries as Frank Mugisha.

“As respect for LGBT people in the United States grows, some conservative Christians are desperate enough to use Africans as pawns in a fatal game of chess,” said Bishop Yvette Flunder, presiding bishop of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. “Armed with long discredited stereotypes, they foment fear in an effort to use Africa to undermine respect and acceptance for same-gender loving people in the USA and around the world.”

“This statement represents a much needed Christian witness,” says Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Maryland. “When faith leaders in both countries speak out against the denial of human dignity and equal rights towards the LGBT community, it is an important step towards making the world a place where all people can live in peace.”

“The connection between LGBT Africans and LGBT African Americans is no longer historical and emotional, it is now imminent and tactical,” says Pastor Joseph Tolton, national minister of global justice for The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries. “As African American people of faith, it is imperative that our voices be prominent as America responds to this crisis. When Evangelists go to Uganda to teach hatred, faith leaders must stand and preach the Gospel truth.”

Read the Statement of Concern, below.


Pastor Joseph W. Tolton
The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries
Phone: +1-212-462-8801 | +1-646-765-6960

Cate Urban

RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights
Phone: +1-202-463-7575 x 234
Hope In Uganda:

Uganda: Faith Leaders’ Statement of Concern

We write, as bishops, pastors and members of diverse communions of faith, in deep concern that you, as our fellow Christians, are speaking through the Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Interreligious Council of Uganda to press the Ugandan Parliament to adopt a version of the now infamous Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

As we understand it, even a “modified” Anti-Homosexuality Bill would, at minimum, make it illegal to speak in support of same gender loving people. And, although the options of execution and mandatory reporting by friends, family and health care providers are being downplayed, they are not off the table.

These proposals would harm the fabric of communities and divide families. Our Christian faith calls us to stand with Uganda’s sexual minority community rather than use our religion to justify their persecution. We wholeheartedly condemn the criminalization of homosexuality, especially state-sponsored violence against LGBT people. Silencing and criminalizing any group based on whom they love or how they express their gender goes against core Christian teaching that we treat others as we would like to be treated. Whatever our biblical interpretation and religious tradition, we know that God calls us to love each other, not to judge each other. Jesus tells us, “What you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

We are deeply concerned that Christian leaders would support policies that censor and harm LGBT people, their families, and communities. Such laws undermine the very lynchpins of freedom and democracy, the right to free expression, and particularly the right to diverse faith expressions. Christian traditions that affirm everyone as a child of God, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity would become illegal under the proposed bill. Ministers and bishops within those traditions would be at risk for arrest and imprisonment. We may have some theological differences among us, but we agree that we should not make criminals of those with whom we disagree.

As Christians we have seen how the message of freedom in Christ can be a catalyst for social justice. As African American pastors and allies coming from both conservative and progressive perspectives, we have lived the struggle to embody the vision of a just society. We reach out to you today to walk together in this journey as brothers and sisters in Christ toward the decriminalization of our LGBT brothers and sisters to create a society where everyone can live in peace.



1. Rev. Dr. Yvette Flunder, Presiding Bishop, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, San Francisco, CA

2. Rev. Dr. Delman Coates, Senior Pastor, Mt. Ennon Baptist Church, Clinton, MD

3. Rev. Dr. Jim Forbes, Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY

4. Rev. Dr. Cheryl B. Anderson, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL

5. Archbishop Carl Beam, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA

6. Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, Senior Pastor, The Open Church, Baltimore, MD

7. Rev. Vannessa Brown, Rivers at Rehoboth Church, New York, NY

8. Rev. Pat Bumgardner, The Global Justice Institute , New York, NY

9. Rev. Dr. Leslie Callahan, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's Baptist Church, Philadelphia, PA

10. Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Metropolitan Community Church, Washington, DC

11. Bishop Wyatt Greenley, Glory to Glory Church, St. Louis, MO

12. Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, Senior Pastor, Ray of Hope Christian Church, Decatur, GA

13. Rev. Cedric Harmon, Many Voices, Washington, DC

14. Rev. Dr. Frederick Haynes, Senior Pastor, Friendship West Baptist Church, Dallas, TX

15. Rev. Candy Holmes, Metropolitan Community Church, Washington, DC

16. Rev. Cari Jackson, The Center for Spiritual Light, New York, NY

17. Bishop Zachary Jones, Unity Fellowship of Christ Church, New York, NY

18. Rev. Jacqueline Lewis, Middle Collegiate Church, New York, NY

19. Bishop James Mills, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, East Coast Region

20. Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, III, Senior Pastor, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, IL

21. Bishop Carlton Pearson, Sr. Pastor, New Dimensions Chicago

22. Rev. Dr. Joe Ratliff, Senior Pastor, Brentwood Baptist Church, Houston, TX

23. Bishop Tanyia Rawls, The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Charlotte, NC

24. Rev. Dr. Jasmin Sculark, Senior Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church, York, PA

25. Rev. Derrick Spiva, Glide Memorial UMC, San Francisco, CA

26. Rev. Kevin Tindell, Pastor of Social Justice, New Dimensions Chicago

27. Pastor Joseph W. Tolton, The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries, New York, NY

28. Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Senior Pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta, GA

29. Rev. Dr. Lance Watson, Senior Pastor, St. Paul's Baptist Church, Richmond, VA

30. Rev. Dr. Traci West, Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, NJ

31. Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Metropolitan Community Church, Sarasota, FL

32. Rev. Martha Simmons, The African American Lectionary, Atlanta, GA

VI. How Your Church Can Get Involved This Advent Season

1. Hold a “Get Tested” Sunday.

Perhaps in conjunction with a sermon, this Advent Season your church can get involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Begin with a “Get Tested” Sunday. The groups named below as well as the Centers for Disease Control can provide you contact information for those in your area who can provide testing “free of charge” to persons in your congregation. Persons may be fearful of being tested given the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS in our community, so be sure to use your church bulletin, screens, newsletters, Facebook, and Twitter to explain the testing process. Also, be sure to discuss the matter as a social health crisis.

2. Contact national groups working to end HIV/AIDS.

(a) Balm In Gilead

4108 Parham Road
Richmond, VA 23228
Local: 804-644-2256
Toll Free: 888-225-6243

Balm in Gilead hosted its “Our Faith Lights the Way” campaign in June 2012 where 1,000 congregations were asked to hold “Testing Sundays.”


National Headquarters
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore, MD 21215
Local: 410-580-5777
Toll Free: 877-NAACP-98

Hollywood Bureau
Los Angeles, CA
Phone: 323-938-5268

Washington Bureau
1156 15th Street, NW Suite 915
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-463-2940

For articles, see

“Dialogue with the Black Church” is part of NAACP’s ongoing two-year national initiative to address the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS in the African American community. The program will create a strategic roadmap for faith leaders to follow in helping to reduce the spread of HIV throughout his or her community. Key components include:

  • In-depth assessments of the barriers and challenges faith leaders face in trying to effectively educate their congregations on HIV testing and prevention. Research to include interviews, surveys, and focus groups among faith leaders in highly-impacted communities.

  • Toolkits with practical, action-oriented steps as well as best practices to shape services currently offered within communities and to serve as a springboard for those who may want to initiate these services.

  • Personal accounts from community champions.

  • Technical assistance to ensure local faith leaders can effectively implement the recommended strategies that are in line with their communities.

  • New HIV-focused content and blogs on the NAACP website.

(c) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
Phone: 1-800 CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)

The CDC contains up-to-date facts about HIV/AIDS, treatments, and ways to reach under-served communities.

(d) Your Denominational Offices

Some denominational offices have information on HIV/AIDS prevention and testing. If you are part of a denomination, contact your state or national office for information.

(e) Your State and Local Health Departments

All state and local health departments have information about HIV/AIDS testing in their area.

3. Pray for those on the frontlines in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world.

Many churches have prayer lines and prayer warriors. This Advent season, why not place on your list for prayer those on the frontlines in the fight against HIV/AIDS around the world. Although the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a major crisis for African Americans in America, it is much worse for persons living in Africa, in South America, and in developing countries.

4. Hold HIV/AIDS listening services throughout the year.

Many are not involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS because they are poorly informed. During the Advent season and next year, why not hold periodic “Listening Services” so that those in your church can hear from persons in your community, your state, and your congregation about living with HIV/AIDS and how to stop its spread.

5. Hold a special worship service for persons with HIV/AIDS.

Have your Worship and Arts department design a special HIV/AIDS service to be held during Advent or next year. Lectionary Young Adult Liturgist Charles Cotton has prepared a special worship service for women suffering with HIV/AIDS. His “Power in the Blood: A Service for Women Infected with HIV/AIDS” can be found in the Young Adult Liturgists’ articles section at This service is an example of the type of service that can be designed. Be creative and inclusive. Also, be sure to advertise your service using all forms of available media, especially Facebook, Twitter, and your local news and radio stations.

VII. African American Pastors Support Same Sex Marriage Law in Maryland

Given that too often churches do not support the fight against HIV/AIDS because of their stances on homosexuality and gay marriage, the newspaper article below offers a perspective that will hopefully help pastors.

Black clergy Back Md. same-sex marriage law

Reverends Christine Wiley, John Howard Wesley, Delman Coates, and Al Sharpton

A group of prominent black clergy today urged Maryland voters to support the state’s same-sex marriage law in the November referendum.

“As pastors and clergy leaders, we are here today to declare our unequivocal support for Maryland’s Civil Marriage Protection Act and to dispel the myth that all African American pastors are fundamentally opposed to the idea of marriage equality,” said Rev. Delman Coates, senior pastor of the 8,000 member Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., during a press conference at the National Press Club in downtown Washington. “For too long the issue of equal treatment under the law for gay and lesbian couples has been mired in a theological debate between those on the one hand who oppose same-sex marriage based upon their religious beliefs, and those on the other who affirm it based upon theirs. And while this is a legitimate discussion for people of faith to have, the appropriate arena that conversation is the house of worship, the seminary, the Bible study or some other religious setting.”

Rev. Howard-John Wesley, senior pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., echoed Coates. He noted during the press conference that many of his congregants live in Maryland—specifically Prince George’s County.

“I will impress upon my membership to vote yes on this issue on the Nov. 6 ballot referendum simply because this act is civil, not religious,” Wesley said. “In no way [does] it [infringe] upon our religious freedom as an institution to define marriage as we would, to perform the rite of marriage according to our doctrinal believes nor in the same way does it infringe upon the state to protect the civil liberties of all its residents.”

Rev. Christine Wiley of Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ in D.C. joined Rev. Brad Braxton of The Open Church and Rev. S. Todd Yeary of Douglas Memorial Community Church in Baltimore; Rev. Frederick Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas; Rev. Otis Moss, III, of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago; Rev. Amos Brown of Third Baptist Church in San Francisco and others at the press conference.

Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, applauded Coates and other black clergy for their support of Maryland’s same-sex marriage law.

“This is not an issue about gay or straight,” said Sharpton at the press conference. “This is an issue about civil rights and to take a position to limit the civil rights of anyone is to take a position to limit the civil rights of everyone. You cannot be a part-time civil rights activist. You cannot be for civil rights for African Americans, but not for gays and lesbians.”

This announcement comes less than two months before Marylanders will vote in the referendum on the same-sex marriage law that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed in March.7


1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Divisions of HIV/AIDS Prevention. accessed 1 July 2012.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Act Aware. accessed 1 July 2012.

5. NAACP Health Programs Department. assessed 1 July 2012.

6. Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights. accessed 1 July 2012.

7. The Washington Blade. “Black Clergy back Md. Same-sex marriage law” by Michael K. Lavers on September 21, 2012. accessed 1 July 2012.



2013 Units