United Methodist churches and conferences can now easily organize an HIV testing event with the assistance of a manual and instructional DVD developed by the Louisiana Annual Conference.
Spearheaded by members of the conference Global Health Initiative, the organizational tools were created with the assistance of a grant provided by the Domestic HIV/AIDS Fund for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
“The Louisiana Conference has taken a deep interest in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Since our inaugural testing event launched in the fall of 2009, United Methodist churches statewide have expanded testing efforts and have continued to hold World AIDS Day events. Creating the manual and DVD allows us to share the system we have developed, making the process easier for other conferences,” said Margaret Johnson, chair for the initiative.
The instructional tools, produced with the help of professional editors and video producers, answer questions about volunteer recruitment and training, which agencies to get involved, and how to promote an HIV testing event. “Most importantly, the manual encourages ecumenical involvement because it is important to have the faith community working together. Through the involvement of the church, we can lift the stigma associated with HIV testing and help to save lives,” said Johnson.
The instructional DVD, produced by a Louisiana-based video production company, simplifies the testing process and inspires local churches to be a part of this important initiative that saves lives. “The professional quality and creativity of the instructional DVD is impressive. Our thanks go out to Focus Productions for bringing the committee’s script to life,” said Betty Backstrom, director of communications for the Louisiana Conference.
“ I applaud the Louisiana Conference for making this video. It is a high energy, step by step outline of how to be an HIV testing site at your local church facility. I am very pleased that the Louisiana conference has challenged us to “ know your status” and given us tools to assist churches in the creation of testing sites. I am grateful that we have been able to provide funding from HIV domestic monies through UMCOR Health to make this possible,” wrote Patricia Magyar with UMCOR Health.
United Methodists in Louisiana have been honored as leaders in efforts both to educate people about AIDS and help lead the way to eliminating the disease in their state. The Louisiana Annual Conference received one of five inaugural United Methodist Global AIDS Leadership Awards during the third international Lighten the Burden Conference in October of 2010.
Other honorees included former President George W. and Laura Bush, retired United Methodist Bishop “Fritz” and Etta Mae Mutti, the Rev. Donald Messer and Dr. Musa Dube.
The Honorable Kip Holden, mayor of Baton Rouge, La., offered words of challenge and hope during a Louisiana Conference sponsored World AIDS Day event Dec. 1, 2011. “AIDS is the Goliath, but we are the Davids that will slay this devastating disease,” said Holden during a press conference held prior to the ecumenical service held in Baton Rouge, La.
Organized by the conference Global Health Initiative, the event was one of four World AIDS Day events held statewide that year. Similar events were repeated throughout the Louisiana Conference in December of 2012.
The strong interest in the HIV/AIDS pandemic exhibited by Louisiana’s United Methodists stems in part from alarming statistics about the disease and the city of Baton Rouge, the state’s capital. “We have the second-highest number of new HIV infection diagnoses among major American cities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They reported that about 52 people per 100,000 were diagnosed with HIV in 2010. New Orleans ranks third in the country with a rate of 44.3,” said Jeff Stafford, conference Global Health Initiative committee member, collaborator on the DVD script and member of First United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge.