*Last Wednesday, more than 50 ministers from around the country gathered at the nation’s Capitol in the name of health care in the African American community. As part of the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2009, the ministers attempted to garner support from the nation to fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“It doesn’t make sense to cover healthcare without worrying about HIV and AIDS,” said Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, chairman of National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA). “We are concerned about people who are dying, people infected by AIDS and making sure that we have the resources to move forward.”

In sync with other clergy, Rev. Butts emphasized the importance of church involvement in the AIDS awareness and keeping state legislatures accountable for pursuing more aggressive actions on the issue.

Rev. Butts, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church and member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, highlighted at the event that while Blacks only make up 12 percent of the country’s population, Blacks constituted more than half of new AIDS cases in 2007. Rates are currently on the rise the Black community.

African Americans also have a lower survival rate than other racial and ethnic groups.

The NBLCA is soliciting the nation’s support for the passage of the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act, which emerged from a conclave of ministers, medical professionals, community leaders, and elected officials in 2007.

Among the national supporters is Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA).

“It’s going to be an uphill battle because of the politics that takes place,” she said. “We have a great president who said he supports a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS. At least we have a commitment to stamp out HIV/AIDS.”

The NBLCA is a non-profit organization, founded in 1987. Its mission is to educate, organize and mobilize Black leadership to fight HIV/AIDS in their communities. The group also conducts policy advocacy and research on HIV/AIDS issues on the national level.

Leaders pray for healthcare Wednesday during Black Clergy Day, a drive for approval of the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of AIDS Act. The leaders in the foreground (left to right) are: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), chairwiman of the Congressional Black Caucus; Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY); Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, chairman of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (which organized the event), C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA); Rev. D. Darrell Griffin, pastor of Covenant Church in Chicago; and Rev. Ruby Gilliam, pastor of the Divine Wisdom Christian Center in Randallstown, MD