Religious communities called to join efforts to educate and raise awareness of HIV / AIDS treatment
The National HIV / AIDS Awareness Day in Faith (NFHAAD) aims to unite communities of faith with communities of people living with HIV / AIDS. Founded in 2017 and observed on the last Sunday of August, NFHAAD seeks these groups to work together to support education, treatment, care and to break down the stigma surrounding HIV / AIDS. This year, NFHAAD was recognized by HIV.gov, the federal government’s primary source of information on HIV.
In 2018, 6,320 people in the city of St. Louis were living knowing they were HIV-positive. On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2019 (December 1), the city of Saint-Louis became a member of the Fast-Track Cities program with the county of Saint Louis. This initiative aims to reach a target of 90-90-90, which means that 90% of people living with HIV know their status, 90% of people living with HIV seek treatment, and 90% of people treated have a suppressed viral load.
“Recognizing the impact of our brothers and sisters in faith communities throughout the city and region is essential to reduce the number of new HIV cases and provide treatment for people living with HIV / AIDS,” says Dr Matifadza Hlatshwayo, co-president of Fast -Piste Villes Saint-Louis.
Earlier this year, Dr Fredrick Echols, Acting Director of Health for the City of Saint-Louis, contacted several religious leaders in the metropolitan area to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic. Through these conversations, the Department of Health formed its Clergy Advisory Council to share COVID-19 and other public health-related information and resources to improve health outcomes in the city.
“Working with the leaders of faith communities in the city helps us reach residents where they are, provide resources, testing opportunities and education on preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV ) and living with HIV / AIDS, ”says Dr. Fredrick Echols, Acting Director of Health for the City of St. Louis. “Providing these resources, regardless of religious preferences, helps reduce stigma and misinformation and empower the whole community. “
Collaborating with these trusted and influential religious leaders offers the health ministry and clergy council medical advisers the opportunity to reach segments of the population with public health information and other resources that were difficult to reach. in the past. It also helps reduce negative attitudes towards health issues like HIV and AIDS and those living with the virus. Educating a congregation about HIV / AIDS can begin to reduce the stigma around the virus and those who live with it by decreasing fears of contracting HIV.
“Connecting our faith communities to public health boards, including ending the HIV / AIDS epidemic, allows us to share messages of prevention, treatment and support throughout the community,” says Dr Kanika Turner, member of the Clergy Advisory Council.
“One of the ways the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Saint Louis (MCCGSL) raised awareness about HIV in the pews during this pandemic is to continue to run our services only online,” said Pastor Wes Mullins. “One way we can stand in solidarity with those who have pre-existing health issues or who are immunocompromised is to have all members of our congregation worship together by worshiping separately. Pastor Mullins plans to discuss National HIV and AIDS Awareness Day in this Sunday’s message to MCCGSL 11:00 a.m. virtual service.
The City of St. Louis Department of Health offers free HIV testing through its Health Stop screening and referral center, located inside Market Building 1520. Services are provided on weekdays. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. In honor of National HIV / AIDS Awareness Day in the Faith, an additional testing opportunity is available this Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Nationally, NFHAAD activities take place virtually throughout the weekend. A calendar of events is available at National HIV and AIDS Awareness Day Events in Faith.