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Although African-Americans account for just 15% of Illinois's population, they represent 52% of the state's newly diagnosed HIV and AIDS cases, the Rockford Register Star reports. To help fight the spread of the disease among African-Americans, the state has devoted $2.5 million to an HIV prevention program, called Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS, that targets at-risk blacks, particularly in urban areas.
But the Reverend Edward Copeland of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Rockford, Ill., says more effort must be made to get black churches to address AIDS issues, saying that stigma surrounding the disease in African-American communities is fueled by the refusal of churches to deal with the growing crisis. Copeland says that HIV is "the elephant in the room" that black churches still don't talk about.
Eric Whitaker, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, told the Register Star that unless black churches--and other African-American organizations--begin to actively combat HIV stigma and fight the spread of the disease among blacks, "we will be in a situation where we have a generation that's no longer on this earth." (Advocate.com)