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Indy man partners with churches to help HIV minority outreach

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Churches around Indianapolis are adding HIV outreach to their work as part of a task force’s mission to address infection rates in minority communities.

Over the years, the church has often been seen as one of the largest voices against the LGBTQ community. Harold Brown said that was his experience when he contracted HIV 40 years ago. It’s been the driving force behind his outreach work. And also a reason why he’s looking to the church to help shift the narrative.

The church remains an integral part of society, and the lessons taught are often carried into daily life.

“One place in the Black community is the institution in which Black people share knowledge and information and faith,” Brown said. “And that is our church. The Black church.”

In the early 80s, Brown contracted HIV. Back then, the disease was new and there weren’t treatment options. It was a tough time as his church pushed him out and he lost friends. It’s been a challenging road but after 40 years, he’s still alive.

Lack of access, knowledge and outreach in minority communities hasn’t changed much, Brown said. Data from the Red Ribbon Jubilee Campaign shows Black youths and adults account for 54% of new HIV infections.

Brown is trying to change that with support from state and county leaders as well as pastors to further the End the HIV Epidemic campaign.

“Our churches are a wonderful means by which to help our people trust the information, trust the person giving the information,” Brown said.

Aaron Hobbs is senior pastor at Broadway United Methodist Church. He is one of several area pastors who received a so-called “HIV 101” course in teaching sermons as a form of outreach.

“The church contributed to the hatred and the misinformation and the stigma that people living with HIV experienced. And what we realized was God is what makes people sacred,” he said.

Hobbs has already delivered one sermon and three more are in the works.

“And for people living with HIV, we care about them because God cares about them,” he said.

Hobbs and Brown said just as the church takes a stand on other societal issues, it’s important to take a stand on this.