Church in U.S. Reaches Out to Minorities on AIDS

Cites Disease as a Leading Cause of Death

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WASHINGTON, D.C., DEC. 11, 2002 (Zenit.org).- AIDS in the United States is increasingly a disease of the poor, the disadvantaged and minorities.



World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, was an occasion for the National Catholic AIDS Network and the U.S. bishops' secretariats for African-American Catholics and for Hispanic affairs to reiterate this message, and to call for compassion for all those suffering from this disease.

Bishop J. Terry Steib of Memphis, Tennessee, chairman of the bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics, agreed.

"Let us pray that we find words and actions, faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that will prevent the spread of HIV," he said.

"While it is true that the virus knows no barriers, communities of color are particularly at risk for HIV/AIDS," said a letter sent out by the AIDS Network, citing government statistics indicating an alarming rise in AIDS among Hispanics and blacks.

In 2000, HIV was the leading cause of death among black men aged 35-44 and the second leading cause among Hispanic men of the same age.

During the same period, HIV was the third leading cause of death among black women aged 35-44, and the fourth leading cause among Hispanic women of the same age.

Perhaps most alarming of all, among the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections that occur in the United States each year, 64% occur among blacks, who constitute only 11% of the U.S. population. An absolute majority of AIDS victims among American women and children are black; as many as one man in 50 in the black community is infected with HIV.

The AIDS issue was an integral theme at the 2002 National Black Catholic Conference in Chicago, where a collection among participants raised some $24,000 for African and African-American AIDS victims.

"Both the USCCB Committees on Hispanic Affairs and African-American Catholics have made serious efforts to develop theologically and culturally appropriate resources that show compassion to people living with HIV/AIDS," says Beverly Carroll, executive director of the bishops' Secretariat for African-American Catholics.

Among these is the HIV/AIDS prayer disseminated by the secretariat, which reads in part: "Help us to minister in loving care, support and patience for your people who suffer with HIV and AIDS. Lead us to do whatever it will take to eradicate this illness from the lives of those who are touched by it, both directly and indirectly. Trusting in You and the strength of Your Spirit, we pray these things in the Name of Jesus, Amen."