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“What Does Walgreens, Gospel Against AIDS and Second Chance Church have in common?” Would you believe Free HIV Testing?”

“What Does Walgreens, Gospel Against AIDS and Second Chance Church have in common?”  Would you believe Free HIV Testing?”

“Every 91/2 minutes someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV/AIDS.”

                                                                        Robert Kaiser Foundation

Accordingto the Centers for Disease Control as of 2010 the United States reached and surpassed the 1million mark of estimated cases of HIV/AIDS.

Communities across the country have and continue to mobilize their efforts to curtail this national epidemic, this global pandemic.  While headlines shift our attention from one economic or natural catastrophe to the next, HIV has never subsided if anything it has gained momentum with our assumption that because we “haven’t heard about it,” then it has ceased to exist. Lulled into complacency we are startled to learn that HIV rates in Indiana went from 5 to 75 in a matter of months. Heroin use is on the rise in unsuspecting cities that are now experiencing its public health ramifications. Apart from the sharing of needles and drug paraphernalia, there is also a “lifestyle” that accompanies substance abuse and use that is inclusive of but not exclusive to; sex for drugs, and multiple sex partners. This confluence has resulted in local health departments seeing rising rates of co-infections. Increasing numbers of clients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS also have Syphilis, Hepatitis C, and Gonorrhea just to name a few. And still many do not know their HIV status. Even more, many people have never been tested for HIV. Knowing your status is half the battle.

The Centers for Disease Control realized long ago that “traditional” testing sites i.e., clinics, hospitals, bars, etc., still were neither accessible nor an option for many people. One of those untraditional “sites” considered vital to curtailing the spread of HIV was the “church.”While a national consolidation movement of faith leaders was considered ideal, despite the urgency, this did not take place. Caught up in its own “stigma” of who was the face of AIDS and how they contracted it, judgment and fear would hinder attempts to create consolidated forward movement for years to come. It would have to start in the “community” and the people not just the religious leaders, would have to be educated, one church at a time.

In 1995, Gospel Against AIDS (GAA)/Global Research Education and Training Networks (GREATNES) was created to meet this need. GAA/GREATNES in collaboration with theologians, infectious disease specialists and persons living with HIV/AIDS created a preventative educational curriculum designed specifically for communities of faith to educate and empower religious leaders and their congregations on transmission and prevention while equipping them to take their much needed place in the continuum of care for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Working in all communities of faith, GAA/GREATNES’ outreach began citywide, expanded statewide, then nationally and later internationally. Starting in 1997, GAA was featured in international news stories and documentaries referred to as the first “HIV Christian faith-based preventive educational and capacity development program of its kind” based not in Washington DC, or Atlanta, but in Detroit, Michigan.

Today GAA/GREATNES has seed churches in Aburi and Accra, Ghana (West Africa), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (East Africa), London, England and Santa Ana, Costa Rica (Central America). GAA/GREATNES also works with community based organizations and individuals from Beijing, China and recently Seoul, Korea. GAA/GREATNES has trained religious leaders from a plethora of faiths and countries from Saudi Arabia to Vietnam. GAA/GREATNES’ curriculum is translated into 7 languages and replicated in as many countries.

In Michigan, like the world, some churches took convincing, some just refused, while others immediately opened their doors. One such church was the Second Church in Flint MI, under the leadership of Pastor Derrick Avery Aldridge who open the doors to GAA and has kept them opened. Second Chance has and continues to lead the faith community in Genesee County in taking an active role in combating the spread of HIV. Pastor Aldridge is a phenomenal man of God who is not only a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor, but is in training to become one of the few religious leaders to become a State of Michigan Certified HIV Tester and Counselor. Second Chance is a GAA HIV Testing Site. Statewide, nationally and internationally, Second Chance is making history.

And it continues. Seeing the need, Walgreens started its “Greater than AIDS Campaign” in 2014 partnering with 230 health departments and AIDS service providers to implement HIV testing across 262 Walgreen stores in 30 states and 144 cities in recognition of National HIV Testing Day. They provided over 10,000 tests within a 3 day period.

This year Walgreens outreach, through its partnership with GAA/GREATNES will extend into communities of faith. Walgreen’s “Together We are Greater than AIDS” Campaign in recognition of National HIV Testing Day will take place at Walgreens 502 South Ballenger Hwy. (at the corner of Beecher Rd.) in Flint from June 25th – 27th.  And Second Chance Church, like it always has been, strongly committed to supporting this movement by outreaching to other churches, providing incentives and volunteers to make this effort a success.

‘We need you to become active participants and responsible human beings in curtailing the spread of HIV by getting tested and knowing your status.” According to Rosalind Andrews-Worthy, of Gospel Against AIDS. “The test is free and within 15 minutes you will have your results” stated Mrs. Worthy.  Counselors will be on hand to answer questions about transmission and prevention. “The populations showing the fastest increase in infections are women, youth ages 13 years to 17 years of age and senior citizens.” “My people do not need to continue to be destroyed because of a lack of knowledge,” according to Pastor Aldridge. “If you have been hurt by the church, I understand, give us a second chance.”

For more information contact Gospel Against AIDS in Detroit (313) 341-5989. Ext. 3. Or the 2nd Chance Church 810-720-8118

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