A sobbering report came out today on MSNBC regarding the rising percentage of young adults infected with HIV/AIDS in the South. While the national percentage of Americans contracting the virus has held steady or declined from 2001 to 2006, the percentage of infected individuals has increased by 10% in the South. The southern region is defined as: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (how did Delaware get in the mix?), Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C. More than 40% of all new infections are in the South and while this region covers only 36% of the population, more than 1/2 of the AIDS deaths in 2005 were in the South.

A particularly tragic statistic relates to the devastating effect that the HIV/AIDS is having on the African- American community. African-American women make up 83% of all new documented cases in the South, with the majority of these women being between the ages of 22 and 24. Make no mistake, there is a viral purging taking place within a cultural community that has become increasingly promiscuous.

What is even more troubling about the report is that it indicates that the most significant factors for the increase in documented AIDS cases are: 1) rural communities; 2) lack of education; 3) lack of proper medical care. While I certainly wouldn’t dispute that easier access to medical care, convenient transporation to an from qualified medical facilities and education would help raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, it seems to me that the most prevelant factor in the rise of AIDS in the South relates to high rates of sexual activity with multiple partners. The most significant factor in the increase of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community is likely also tied to the fact that here is a ethnic community within the South that also has a staggering rate of unwed pregnancies and fatherless children.

How should we (the Church) respond? More abstinence-based education? It might not hurt but its not the answer. Provide more ministries to single mothers? Perhaps. Should be develop ministries that target individuals already infected with HIV/AIDS? Certainly. But none of these are likely to cut off the head of this deadly serpent. Men need to be discipled to be men. If you want to see genuine transformation within the African-American community – a transformation needed to save lives – African-American males have to be changed by the Gospel. Interestingly, this is probably the once segment of the ethnic community in the South that the Church has been least likely to engage. I wonder, for the sake of discussion, why do you think that is?

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