INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An Indianapolis church is working to help end the HIV epidemic.
The church’s annual fundraiser kicked off on Friday night. As HIV rates in minorities continue to rise, organizers said the fight can’t stop.
Powerhouse Church representatives say as a church it’s not enough to say come as you are. It’s important to affirm people’s identity. And as a church with a largely LGBTQ population, it’s important to lead the charge in that belief.
Ending the HIV epidemic by 2030 is a plan the federal government is in on. But it’s local groups like Powerhouse Church that’ll really help get us there.
“Everything we do is geared toward empowering the community and this event is no different,” said Bishop Keith McQueen.
McQueen is the church leader and said the church’s nonprofit, Empower Indy, is all about building up its predominately LGBTQ congregation members and community.
“Even though we’ve made great strides in the African American community to experience freedom and liberation, when we deny the next generation of experiencing that level of freedom and liberation, everything we have done before is in vain,” said McQueen.
Its annual Habitation conference is packed with entertainment, workshops and a fundraising gala. But it also brings light to important issues like HIV.
“Not only is it affecting our community at high rates, we are also disproportionately in access to care and testing and prevention materials,” said Edward Bension with BU Wellness Network, which describes itself as the largest African American AIDS service organization in Indiana
Marrisa Miller is the director of health services and says the LGBTQ community faces barriers when it comes to employment, housing, access to health and violence.
“We can talk about how we can stop the murdering of trans women, the poverty that is going on in our neighborhoods. How we can rebuild our neighborhoods? How we can have equitable health systems?” said Miller.
She said ending HIV isn’t just a gay problem. The face of HIV is changing. Cases of HIV among Black, heterosexual women are growing, so finding ways to attack the problem needs to change.
“You have to be disruptively innovative and create new partnerships with nontraditional people and nontraditional organizations and faith-based organizations,” said Randy May with the Marion County Health Department.
Miller said events like this are just a step to end the HIV epidemic and there’s a lot more work to do.
“We also have to change the lives of people so that they can have more equitable experience.”
All of the money raised in the gala will support the church’s nonprofit, with additional LGBTQ outreach and transitional housing program for LGBTQ youth who age out of foster care.