LOS ANGELES, Calif. While more than one million people in the United States are living with AIDS, nearly a quarter of them are undiagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.
The Crenshaw Christian Center, hoping to reduce the number of undiagnosed cases while spreading awareness about HIV/AIDS, expanded its community outreach by offering free testing to the community.
The testing was provided June 27 when the Los Angeles church was scheduled to open its doors for National HIV Testing Day. As part of the event, three mobile units were expected to provide confidential testing using an HIV Rapid test that provides results within 20 minutes.
Pastor Fred Price Jr., head pastor at Crenshaw Christian Center, said he takes the spread of HIV/AIDS seriously.
"AIDS is of biblical proportions, a pandemic that needs to be addressed with more urgency," he said. "I liken it to leprosy, a disease that was just as frightening in archaic times as HIV/AIDS is today."
Pastor Robert Bolden was given the task nine years ago of spearheading the HIV/AIDS ministry for Crenshaw Christian Center. The program was designed to coincide with the messages preached by Pastor Fred Price Jr. and Apostle Frederick K.C. Price.
"The HIV disease is 100 percent preventable," Bolden said in a new release. "It is important that people get educated about how to prevent the disease, and you know your HIV status."
Since 1991, when the county of Los Angeles Department of Health Services began recording HIV/AIDS statistics, the number of HIV cases for women has nearly tripled, specifically rising among African-American women. In 2008, 70 African-American women were diagnosed with AIDS compared with 19 white women.
"Approximately 50 percent of all newly diagnosed HIV cases in the U.S., which total over 50,000 every year, are among African-Americans," Bolden said.
Crenshaw Christian Centers National HIV Testing Day partnered with the Magic Johnson Foundation and Charles Drew University to make the HIV testing available for free to as many people as possible.
"Our mandate at Crenshaw Christian Center is not just to inform and make people aware, but to intercede intensely that a cure will be discovered and made public and pray fervently for God to heal and completely do away with the disease," Price said.
In addition to his work at Crenshaw, Bolden also participates on the Urban Church Task Force for HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles in which congregational leaders meet monthly to discuss effective strategies for ministering to those who are being tested or are infected. He is also on the community advisory board for the county of Los Angeles' African American & Latino Faith Based HIV Prevention Initiative, whose mission statement is "to mobilize the faith community to reduce HIV infection, ignorance and injury by spreadingthrough education and preventionthe compassionate, just and unconditional love of God."
According to a 2008 presentation from the initiative group, some of the barriers churches face when ministering about HIV is the stigma still surrounding the disease and ignorance on its transmission.
"As church leaders, we can make a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS by talking about sex more and by promoting the stability of the family with the understanding that sex is a gift from God for married couples," Price said. "By preaching about abstinence, we are also teaching the safest form of prevention."
Prayer and education
By using current statistics and information, Crenshaw Christian Center is able to educate more people about the effectiveness of HIV testing and the use of prayer in the medical community.
"We started this program because there was and is still a need for people to receive accurate information regarding the HIV/AIDS pandemic," Bolden said.
Many in the community agree with Crenshaw Christian Center's stance on HIV testing and the belief that prayer, supplemented with medicine, can bring healing.
"The community has responded very well," Bolden said when asked about the community's reaction to the HIV/AIDS information the church was preaching. "People like to be informed and they want accurate information and we try and give the people accurate information."
In the difficult times where someone tests positive, both Bolden and Price are there to offer counseling and prayer. Additionally, they can recommend nearby medical clinics for treatment.
"We offer biblical teaching with the compassion of Jesus Christ and our primary goal is to develop a program that helps improve the lives of people through God's word," Bolden said.For more information, visit www.crenshawchristiancenter.net.
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