Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Church Workers Share Aids/hiv Ministry Conference for Caregivers, Victims Emphasizes Education, Prevention

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Church Workers Share Aids/hiv Ministry Conference for Caregivers, Victims Emphasizes Education, Prevention

Article excerpt

Education and prevention are the buzzwords at a conference here this weekend of church workers who minister to people living with HIV/AIDS.

More than 300 AIDS caregivers and sufferers are meeting through Sunday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Union Station for a Hope and Healing Conference. Co-hosts of the conference are Bishop Hays Rockwell of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and Dean J.C. Michael Allen of Christ Church Cathedral.

The National Episcopal AIDS Coalition was joined for the first time by clergy and lay people from the United Methodist, Lutheran and Seventh-day Adventist churches and by officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which provided some funding for the meeting.

Representatives of other Protestant denominations and some Catholic priests also are attending.

"Education is the only weapon we have now against this disease," said Chad Boutte, 22, who was diagnosed with AIDS this summer and has struggled with authorities to tell his cautionary story in schools in Albuquerque, N.M., where he lives.

No one warned him, he said, when he began using intravenous drugs and sharing needles with friends as a fifth-grader in a Catholic grade school, or later in high school when he experimented freely with sex.

He said he found only rejection by his church and other churches after he tested HIV-positive three years ago.

He also was abandoned by his family and kicked out of the Navy.

"I'm here today because I am angry," Boutte told the opening plenary session Friday.

He said that Christ's call to care for the sick was being ignored by too many churches that call themselves Christian.

Another plenary speaker, the Rev. Altagracia Perez, who leads a Latino Episcopalian parish in South Central Los Angeles, agreed with Boutte.

She said that church leaders who have listened to the stories of AIDS sufferers must push government to understand that the disease is about human relations and sexuality, not just about a virus. …

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