African Americans are becoming infected with HIV/AIDS more than ever before, comprising nearly 50% of all AIDS diagnoses in 2009, despite representing just over 12% of the U.S. population. The YOUR Center, a community development center, has launched a new initiative, YOUR Blessed Health (YBH), to put an end to the spread of HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) around Flint, Michigan.
Through providing resources and education to faith-based institutions and community based organizations, YOUR Blessed Health hopes to educate 13 to 19-year-old African American teens who represent 65% of new HIV/AIDs cases in the American teen population each year. There are currently 46 faith based organizations in the area that now participate in this youth program, which has been up and running for five years now.
The group’s primary focus is 11- to 25-year-old African American men and women. YBH wants to spread their message to African American children through the churches and community organizations by providing more trusted areas for adults and teens to discuss the actions that may put them at risk for HIV/AIDS. Before YBH, sex and HIV were forbidden discussion topics for community churches. Director of the YOUR center, Bettina Campbell, believes this is even more of a reason to expose the program to these youths, as they are statistically more at risk than other minority groups and whites.
Though the group experienced much resistance from church leaders in the creation of the youth program, YBH offers training and support for participating pastors, as well as their spouses, and other community and religious leaders. The faith leaders are able to choose from a list of educational activities based on their own beliefs and culture. For example, one pastor may be against showing his youth members how to properly apply a condom using a banana, while another may give consent as long as it is off church property.
Campbell says churches across the United States are interested in duplicating the program, and they plan on using YBH has their primary model. Find out more about getting tested and getting your community involved at www.yc4w.org.