Will Black Churches Finally Do Something About HIV/AIDS in Black Women?

| 07/23/2012 | Comments (10)

Since the early 1980s when the AIDS crisis first became widely publicized, black churches have kept silent.

At that time it was believed that AIDS was “the gay disease” and therefore would not affect African Americans. That dream went up in smoke a few years later when it was discovered that HIV could be transmitted through blood, sharing dirty needles, deep kissing with someone that had bleeding gums or open cuts in their mouth, and through heterosexual sexual activities. Before you could say “boo!” the Aids boogeyman was out of the closet and killing gay black men and IV street drug users.

AIDS, the Down Low Black Man and Hetereosexual Black Women

AIDS HIV black women down low men single black women Until the shocking release of E. Lynn Harris’ book Invisible Life about the many married and otherwise “straight” black men that had secret sex lives with other men in 1991,  few black women knew anything about what we now call “down low” men. Too bad that the largest regular gathering spot for black women – the black church – ignored the AIDS crisis in the U.S. for 30 years. Only recently have black churches began organizing and discussing the disease that is devastating black communities nationwide. Statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control in 2011 reported that Blacks Americans, representing just 13% of the U.S. population, account for more than half of all new HIV diagnoses. The shocking report went on to say that 1 in 30 Black women and 1 in 16 Black men will be infected with HIV in their lifetime.

What could churches have done to arrest the spread of AIDS in the black community? I say a lot that they didn’t do because its easier to pretend that black men aren’t having secret homosexual liaisons with other gay or in the closet black men. It was also easier to pretend that black men, the largest population of convicts in the nation, were not having homosexual liaisons (whether by force or consent) while locked up in prison.  It was also easier to pretend that AIDS was a disease that God used to wipe out sinners, freaks and sodomites. Such dismissive judgments implied  that if you contracted AIDS it meant you got it for a reason and God said you deserved to have it.

Such ignorance is inexcusable.  Hundreds of thousands of religious leaders in black churches flatly refused to use their influence and numbers to quickly spread scientific information and education about the many ways this new killer disease could be contracted and transmitted. Such irresponsibility is unforgivable. Obviously, throwing the Bible at AIDS hasn’t worked in spite of the fact that black women are the most religious demographic in the nation, and constitute the largest number of people attending church.

How Christian Men Respond to Female HIV Cases

Discussing this topic with some alleged Christian men, they angrily and judgmentally retorted that women should keep their legs closed and if they contracted HIV/AIDS it was because they slept around and were nothing but whores. This in spite of the fact that these guys were the BIGGEST WHORES in the world before they found Jesus, and were only moderately less of a whore afterwards.  That all of them are not dead from AIDS or at least HIV positive is a frickin miracle.

They seemed to ignore the fact that the greatest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the black community in the 1980s were gay black males, male IV drug users and MARRIED WOMEN. Yes, that’s right – the women waiting at home for their down low husbands to come home and make love to them.

Obviously, if women are getting HIV and AIDS they are getting it from men. The highest rate of AIDS is in gay males, and the lowest rate is in lesbian females. The CDC Fact Sheet HIV Among Gay and Bisexual Men (May 2012) states:

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM)1 represent approximately 2% of the US population, yet are the population most severely affected by HIV. In 2009, MSM accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections, and MSM with a history of injection drug use (MSM-IDU) accounted for an additional 3% of new infections. That same year, young MSM accounted for 69% of new HIV infections among persons aged 13–29 and 44% of infections among all MSM. At the end of 2009, an estimated 441,669 (56%) persons living with an HIV diagnosis in the US were MSM or MSM-IDU.

So in spite of the fact that many married women that had NEVER cheated on their husbands, many young women that had only slept with their one true love either after or before marriage, and many young women that never used drugs or slept around were contracting the disease and dying, black churches continued to ignore the epidemic and pretend it didn’t concern ‘us’.

Do Churches Contribute to HIV/ AIDS Cases Amongst Black Women?black churches AIDS HIV in black women

It’s an interesting question. Some would say no, if you women would follow biblical scripture and only have sex after marriage, this wouldn’t be a problem for you! That is flatly untrue. What a woman does and what her husband has done in the past or during their marriage is beyond her control. Being married is no guarantee you won’t end up with HIV or AIDS, contracting it from your husband.

And though churches do want to reach out and convert people to their belief system, I believe that prison ministries are very dangerous for female congregants. Prison ministries bring women into contact with convicts – people that have made a mess of their lives and in some respect, most by hurting other people. Prisoners tend to be savvy, slick people with a lot of game. Coming from an environment where you are either the prey or the predator, convicts are always vying to get the upper hand and control those they believe are weaker .

Since prisoners often find God or Allah in prison, when they get out they will attend the church or mosque that helped them while behind bars. Prison ministries  bring a lot of men of questionable morals and mentality into contact with single black women and their children. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis (A B and C), and other diseases are very common amongst prisoners (CDC Correctional Health Data & Statistics, Feb. 2011)

Naive church women write and talk to the prisoners and pray with them, basically being set up as a mark for a prisoner that needs a roof over his head and someone to help support him when he gets out. So he will feign love and speak of commitment and happily ever after. Since she has been trained to believe that she is not to judge his past, but to forgive and let God be the judge, she will overlook many things that are red flags. Trusting that he is a changed man and a True Believer (without a modicum of proof), she will believe that what he is saying is true and marry him shortly after his release from prison, if not while he is still locked up.

NAACP AIDS Initiative for Black Churches

However, in July 2012 (more than 30 years later), the NAACP has launched a two-year initiative to address the disproportionately high number of HIV/AIDS cases that affect black men and women.  The Dialogue with the Black Church program “will create a strategic road map for faith leaders to follow in helping to reduce the spread of HIV throughout his or her community. ”

Obviously, reading the bible is not doing anything to quench the sexual desires of congregants, and people had sex and will continue to have sex whether they go to church and worship God or not.  Continuing to rely on ancient scriptures to address 21st century social issues has not worked and never will. It’s time for black churches to take the lead on many issues that affect the black community if we are to turn things around on a large scale.

What is your take on this initiative? Do you think this push will get black church leaders to address sexuality in a realistic fashion in black churches?

Can this NAACP initiative be enough to turn things around in the black community? Or is it too little, too late?

If this initiative won’t do the trick to quell the tide of rising HIV/AIDS cases amongst black women, then what will?

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Veteran social researcher, relationship advice columnist, author and radio host. Author of hundreds of articles on American and black culture, gender issues, singles, dating and relationships. Author of "Sucka Free Love!" , "The 24 Types of Suckas to Avoid," "The Black Church - Where Women Pray and Men Pray," and "Why Vegan is the New Black" all available on Amazon.Com. Her unique voice and insightful commentary have delighted fans and riled haters for 20 years. Read her stuff on SurvivingDating.Com and AskHeartBeat.Com.

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Category: Society and Culture, The Black Church

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  1. KK_CC says:

    I believe that at least 80% of churches populated and run primarily by black people is a waste of time.  I also know that it is not the church’s responsibility to “do something” about the HIV/AIDS epidemic among black women and/or men except, really, what the have or should be already doing, which is teaching what the scripture says about how to handle oneself sexually as a person who claims to live for God and then offering support to facilitate that into reality.  There is a different paradigm that people of true biblical faith have about sex and it does not include the idea that God is somehow unaware of the “realness” of the struggle to maintain sexual sobriety and keep it closed up or zipped up.  The scripture tells people who know they will have a problem staying single to long what to do (1st Corinthians 7)–it’s there, people are just not obeying it.

    Besides the faith and biblical literacy aspect of this issue, there is a very real carry-over from the generational, psychological conditioning of our people from slavery times I think; one of the major results of this is black women not having enough inner fortitude and self-respect to shut a man down when he comes running head games to get her to embrace logic about sex that is alternative to the better that she knows.  This is the great weakness of women: volunteering themselves to be weak, just so that they can have the warmth of what they have tricked their own minds into believing the man running this game is something that he clearly is not.
    I am not saying black women are inherently defective and should shut up crying about their suffering.  I am saying that the church cannot stop people from being fake about their professed faith.  I think any intelligent observer of our society can deduce that a good 60% of people who attend black churches regularly are not truly regenerate by the biblical criteria (1st John before the book of Revelation) this is a huge problem that only a few ministers, black and other, are addressing.  Black people, to my mind, are the most notorious for having various nefarious motives for attending church–baseless and unbiblical tradition, custom of relatives, guilt, business prospecting, booty prospecting, bored with nothing else to do, etc.
    When I look at most black churches I see a place for black males to do what they’ve always done: use the platform as a shortcut to be something big, have authority, salve their pitifully low self-esteem, make money or whatever; it’s a shortcut to CEO status and celebrity.  My question is: how many more Jamal Bryants and Eddie Longs do we need for black people as a collective to end their support of these scoundrels and show them that if they choose to go to church at all, then the ministers will be held accountable.  In every major institute of society black women have a reputation for being easy to gain support from without true accountability and when the leaders of those institutions commit some egregious sin or wrong, black women use screwed-up thinking to cover their faults and restore them to their former place of trust with little to no correction on the part of the offender–this has happened time and again.  I agree that more women should close their legs or at least take longer to open them, but I also believe that it is even more imperative and urgent for black males to prove themselves the leaders they always claim to be and demand recognition for being and do whatever they need to do to overcome their obsession with the search for the validation of their own manhood and for their potency, yes resolve and heal from those deep self issues of defective worth so that they can control themselves.

  2. browniegirl360 says:


  3. Razzy says:

    I don’t think the Black Church will take a hard enough stance against HIV/AIDS epidemic in the black community. Not to the point where it makes an impact.  They won’t be handing out condoms they won’t be talking about the real nitty gritty acts of sex, they won’t do any plain speaking.  They’ll just put some *prayer* on the issue and call it a day and say things like, “Let’s leave it in God’s hand” and they’ll continue to finger point and blame the victims of HIV/AIDS and say things like women need to keep their legs closed.’    They won’t hold men accountable for this epidemic’.  When it comes to the social/sexual issues that directly affects the black woman, the black church is pretty much useless. 

    • browniegirl360 says:

      Razzy  Yep which is why I stay from the BLACK CHURCH and from BLACK MEN…both are a bane to black women…we deserve better and should go for it and leave these no good men and the black church alone!

  4. MaryAliceMiller says:

    Please. Black men are not going to teach Black women to stop allowing Black men to treat Black women’s (and girls) bodies like their personal toilet bowl. They are not going to teach BM to stop the behaviors. Those genocidal behaviors feel too good. Smh.

    • browniegirl360 says:

      MaryAliceMiller  Which is why black women need to remove themselves from these nefarious environments since all they do is HARM us. I stay from the black church, don’t deal with black men. The black church is nothing more than a breeding ground for black men and their bullshit and a weapon of mass destruction towards black women…I left BLACKISTAN long time ago and never looking or going back!

      • Razzy says:

        browniegirl360 “I left Blackistan a  long time ago and never looking or going back”LOLOL.  I hear ya girl.  Although their are jerks in all races, we do seem to have more than our share in the black race when it comes to our black men.  

  5. TrixieM says:

    This is a thought provoking article. It makes one ponder, “how do we as a black community get ahead of this epidemic”? This is a conversation that we should be having in many venues — especially in the in the church. The black church is generally very homophobic and sometimes acts like this virus only affects “those” people. Ultimately, the solution starts with self both men and women alike. We also need to stop giving kudos to pimps and players outside and inside the church for running game and manipulating women out of their drawers. Ewww…the thought of how some of these people are barebacking it with multiple partners all at the same time is just NASTY. And, for the dudes that are having sex with other men and women outside their relationships or secretly is appalling.

  6. DanaStanley says:

    We have to start somewhere getting a dialogue started, and what the NAACP is doing is a very good start.  Hopefully the church leaders are open to it, and willing to take what they learn to the communities.  It’s time to be proactive (even though we are actually being reactive as well).

    • browniegirl360 says:

      DanaStanley Black women need to get the hell out of BLACKISTAN stay away from black churches, black men and black schools. After all, what good do any of  these institutions do for black women? The black community does not care about black women, hell the black community HATES us, so why stick around? Oh no, not me…I left YEARS ago and not coming back!

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