London churches open HIV testing centres. ‘People with HIV are not cursed’

HIV-TestChristian Today – HIV testing clinics have been opened in churches across London in the hopes of combatting high rates of infection as well as social stigma among the African population.
Four African churches in Southwark, New Cross, Dagenham and Wood Green are involved in the project, which is coinciding with National HIV Testing Week from November 22 to 30.
Behind the campaign is Rev Fred Annin, the founder and CEO of Actionplus Foundation, which is working to support those with the virus, as well as put an end to it completely, both in Ghana and the UK. He wants the church to lead the movement, and the foundation therefore offers training for pastors and community leaders on the facts about HIV.
Actionplus was the first organisation to set up an HIV testing clinic in a church in London, and launched its Take Action Now campaign last year.
“The Bible does not condemn people with HIV as cursed. It shouldn’t be taboo to discuss it in churches. It’s a medical condition and people need medical help. Prayer cannot bring our health back when we ignore medicine,” Annin said.

“Our vision is a world where people affected by HIV do not experience poverty, ill health and prejudice. We support people living with HIV/AIDS to play a central role in improving their own lives, leading to permanent and lasting solutions.”
He believes that the Church has “accused God of cursing his own people” through HIV, and others have in turn accused the Church “of being hypocrites who abandon her own people when they needed help and support the most”.

This project has managed to change these negative perceptions, he said.
In a BBC interview last year, Annin criticised the Miracle Hour show, broadcast on Faith World TV, during which a pastor prays for those who call in and declares them “set free” of diseases such as diabetes and cancer. “We need to teach our people the truth,” Annin said of these broadcasts, labelling them dangerous. He wants to see more people medically tested for infection.
Cases of HIV among Africans in the UK are far higher than in the general population. According to Public Health England, the prevalence rate among black-African heterosexuals is 56 per 1,000 people aged between 15 and 59, in comparison to just 2.8 people per 1,000 across the whole of the UK.

In 2013, an estimated 38,700 black-Africans living in the UK were HIV positive, accounting for over two thirds of all heterosexual people living with the virus. Additionally, black-African communities contain the largest number of people with undiagnosed HIV infection.
The churches involved in the Take Action Now campaign are Mountain Movers Chapel International, Southwark; Living Flames Baptist Church, New Cross; Dominion Centre, Wood Green; and The Church Of Pentecost UK, Dagenham.
National HIV Testing Week precedes World Aids Day on December 1.

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