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The eleventh annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of aids swept through more than 7,500 American congregations in March, reminding many that the fatal disease poses a significant threat to African Americans.African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the population. But according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans account for 45 percent of new AIDS cases and nearly 50 percent of total AIDS deaths. One in 50 African-American men and 1 in 160 African-American women are believed to be HIV positive, compared to 1 in 250 white men and 1 in 3,000 white women.Balm in Gilead, a Christian outreach program, founded the Black Church Week of Prayer of the Healing of aids to counteract the disease's spread in the African-American community."Sometimes I feel like we're just getting started," says Balm founder Pernessa C. Seele, despite 11 years of the group's educational seminars, re source-building, and prayer vigils. "If churches were doing enough on this issue, there wouldn't be a need for us."Balm in Gilead encourages churches involved in its aids education and prevention network with frequent phone calls, program ideas, pamphlets, and study materials.Four theologians recently completed a weekly Sunday-school curriculum based on issues of sin, disease, and spiritual healing. Balm also offers materials and training for abstinence education."Not only do their resources and events get our congregation thinking more about HIV, but they also challenge church members to use their gifts and talents to reach out to the suffering," says Marla Bonacile Johnson, executive director of the Reach, Act, Provide Health Awareness (RAPHA) Program for Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church ...

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April 24, 2000

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