*Pastors and leaders in the black community on Wednesday discussed methods churches can use to support those impacted by HIV/AIDS.

On Wednesday a forum was held at St. Paul C.M.E. Church in Jackson, TN in observance of World Aids Day. The event featured talks about faith based awareness and strategies, HIV testing procedures and support systems for those suffering from the disease.

The forum was a chance to provide leaders of churches with the necessary information about HIV/AIDS to pass on to their congregations. They have a powerful voice in the community that can help address the issue, said Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP.

“We’ve got to get rid of the stigma of it,” she said. “It’s a condition, it’s a disease but it is preventable.”

According to UNAIDS, 33.4 million people worldwide have HIV including more than 1 million in the United States. The CDC reports that between 2005 and 2008 the rate of HIV diagnosis among blacks was the largest increase of any race or ethnicity in the nation.

John Gilmore, an HIV educator and reverend from Memphis, said the faith-based community could offer spiritual support, educate the public and provide financial aid to organizations and people suffering from HIV/AID

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