By Patrick Madden
Nearly 70 percent of new HIV AIDS cases in Northern Virginia occur in African-American youth. To curb this alarming trend, Fairfax County is partnering with a group of prominent black churches to raise awareness about the disease.
Reverend Kenny Smith with the First Baptist Church in Vienna says the faith community needs to be more pro-active in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
"Too long we have been silent and the black community; if you want information delivered, you need to do it through the black church," says Smith.
He says church leaders need to talk openly about the disease and sexuality and to help remove the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS.
"The clergy has to be willing to talk about this issue and not always be condemning but provide a conduit by which people can be open," says Smith.
Nearly a dozen churches have signed on to help. They held a summit over the weekend, which included panel discussions and workshops. Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, the county's director of health, says this coalition of black churches will make a difference.
"We consider them a critical link that has been missing all these years in our HIV prevention efforts," she says.