Four new HIV clinics in London churches
A London based charity has opened four new HIV testing clinics in black churches in and near London – Southwark, New Cross, Wood Green and Dagenham - to combat the high rate of HIV among African people living in the UK
The ActionPlus Foundation believes that Africans in the UK who have HIV are afraid to be tested or admit to infection, because of social stigma and the risk of being thrown out of their churches. It is therefore offering medical testing in church based clinics with trained health specialists and a training programme for church leaders.
The churches include Living Flames Baptist Church, in Cotesbrooke Street, New Cross as well as Mountain Movers Chapel International, Southwark, (SE17 1JJ); Dominion Centre, Wood Green, (N22 6DS); and The Church Of Pentecost UK, Dagenham (RM8 1YX)
The founder of ActionPlus, Pentecostal minister Revd Fred Annin, launched the campaign to involve churches in London on National HIV day last year.
He says HIV is misunderstood or even ignored by many churches and he cites examples of Christians who have been forced to leave their church because of moral condemnation.
He says people can acquire HIV by many means, not just through sexual contact. ‘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’.
The Latest Health Protection Agency figures show that 2.8 people in every 1000 in the UK have HIV (aged 15 – 59) – yet the HIV prevalence rate among black-African heterosexuals is 56 per 1,000 population aged 15-59 years (41 per 1,000 men and 71 per 1,000 women).
Almost two in five (38 per cent) black-African men and one in three (31 per cent) black-African women living with HIV remained unaware of their infection. Rates of undiagnosed infection were higher outside London at 50 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively.
ActionPlus foundation began in the UK in 1997 and opened in Ghana ten years later.
In the UK, it is based in London with a branch in Luton. In Ghana, the success of a similar ‘Take Action Now’ campaign has been phenomenal, winning support of churches and health bodies. It has rolled out testing programmes in many public places including churches, schools and even nail bars.
Mr Annin added: ‘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.’