Executive Director
Shirley Marie Graham
 photo by James Stroud
First, let me begin by thanking all of you for your continued support for the past 20 years. As most of you know funding is limited for nonprofit organizations and as a result, so many of you gave of your precious time as volunteers and your finances to help continue our cause. We are grateful.
 
In the early 80’s my first encounter with HIV/AIDS was when I learned that a family member was infected. At that time there was limited amount of literature available for HIV/AIDS. This disease was not talked about in the African American community and it certainly was not talked about in Black churches. It is no secret that the African American church is, and will always be, the cornerstone for every community crisis, community event, and for the wise politician who knows the value of the church. Unfortunately, for too long the black church has been silent on the crisis of HIV/AIDS. However, we thank God that some of the African American ministers are slowly beginning to recognize the urgent need to take action. We greatly need more pastors and Christian leaders to talk about HIV/AIDS from the pulpit, at Sunday school, or at Bible study, and to plan an HIV/AIDS educational training session with the support of Community Fitness Today.
The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS through the Balm in Gilead’s efforts has given us the opportunity to bring about awareness via the faith community in a way that we can show compassion for those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. It is often hard for pastors to take on this responsibility by themselves, because of the many challenges he/she faces as being a pastor. I urge all First Ladies for your support by taking a stand and commit to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS by first educating your own congregation. Our newly launched “First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS” (FLAHA) campaign will provide all the needed support to make a difference in your congregation. Why First Ladies? Of the newly estimated AIDS cases, 61% are among African American teen girls ages 13-19. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in black women aged 25-34, the third leading cause of death for black women aged 35-44, and the fourth leading cause of death aged 45–54 years. “First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS” let us take a stand.
As we move forward in 2009 with this fight against HIV/AIDS, let us be mindful that silence; the stigma and the denial of HIV/AIDS still continue to suppress our community’s response to HIV/AIDS education, testing, and treatment. Without the involvement of the church we cannot conquer this epidemic. Let us get involved, get educated, get tested and get treated.