Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pass the offering plate and take a condom... or maybe 5,000!

I'm totally psyched about the United Church of Christ HIV/AIDS Ministry (UCAN)!

I spoke to Mike Schuenemeyer again this morning and asked what we at the HIV/AIDS Ministry of DHM could do to help. He mentioned that he was about to order some more condoms.. I told him we could help him out there.

I just packaged and shipped a little over 5,000 male condoms (of different sizes and colors) a box of female condoms, and 10 cases of lubricant to the UCC Church House in Cleveland!

As I mentioned yesterday I want this partnership to WORK so in addition to the supplies we sent today I am pledging an additional 10,000 pieces for safer sex kits to be shipped to the UCC Church House over the next year! Now, for any Disciples congregations out there ready to take a leap, drop me an email or call and we'll have condoms and safer sex kits on the way to you within 24 hours.

Distribution of condoms and prevention education are the easiest ways to help make a difference in the fight against HIV and AIDS! Join us in the fight, do something and make a difference!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

United Church of Christ takes a leap!

Many years ago our brothers and sisters at the United Church of Christ went 'all-out' embracing all of God's children regardless of Sexual Orientation and openly inviting gay and lesbian ministers to join their denomination. Remember those commercials? What a great campaign and what an amazing ministry.

Today the UCC took another leap of faith stating that, "Condoms should be distributed at places of worship. The March 19 statement, issued at a presentation to the UCC Wider Church Ministries Board, also called for making condoms available at faith-based educational settings." According to UCC executive Michael Schuenemeyer, "The practice of safer sex is a matter of life and death. People of faith make condoms available because we have chosen life so that we and our children may live."

Read the full story here;

I'm am amazed and inspired at the action the United Church of Christ has taken today.

I've spoken with Mike Schuenemeyer, Executive Director of UCAN (The UCC HIV/AIDS Network) and proposed a full partnership between the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network of Disciples Home Missions and UCAN and Mike has graciously accepted my offer to work together, sharing ideas and resources!

The HIV/AIDS Ministry Network of Disciples Home Missions will no longer sit and wait, we will join our brothers and sisters at UCAN in a collaborative effort to bring faith based HIV/STD prevention education to our denomination and God's broader church as a whole!

The HIV/AIDS Ministry Network of Disciples Home Missions is now booking dates for our spring and summer road trips in the Midwest. If you have an event in your congregation or community that you would like us to be a part of, please let us know.

Check out our website: to find out what we can offer you and your group.

Friday, March 20, 2009

UCC’s health advocates press for increased condom distribution

I received an email today regarding the work UCAN - The United Church of Christ HIV and AIDS Network, is doing. Mike is really stirring things up and laying it on the line with the facts... Take a look at this:

Action in Houston

Have any of you seen this?

Houston Chronicle Examines Local Church's Efforts To Increase HIV Testing

The Houston Chronicle on Wednesday examined efforts by pastors at the predominantly black St. John's Church in Houston to encourage people to receive HIV tests. St. John's offers HIV testing, among other services, through the non-for-profit Bread of Life. Amber David, a counselor at the church, serves as an advocate for testing, urging congregants to be screened during monthly "Get Tested" Sundays. St. John's Pastor, Rudy Rasmus, began an HIV campaign among congregants 15 years ago, after "too many funeral service requests for young people who died" from AIDS-related causes, he said. Rasmus says the church serves as an effective forum for reaching the black community because it is historically the center of the community. According to Houston health department data, blacks account for more than half of all new HIV cases in Harris County, and black teenagers represent most new cases among all adolescents. St. Johns' Bread of Life tested 700 people in 2008 (George, Houston Chronicle, 3/18)

I am amazed and blessed when I read articles like these. It's conforting for me to see churches becoming more involved in slowing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

I recently had a conversation with the senior minister of a Disciples congregation and offered to help plan and conduct an HIV/AIDS focus group at his church building and offer free and anonymous HIV testing. Imagine my surprise when the minister told me that his congregation was not affected by HIV and that he was afraid that if we discussed HIV, and in particular condoms, we would be encouraging his flock to engage in sexual relations.

I'm sad to say that I didn't have the words that this minister needed to hear. I pray that the Spirit will reach him.

When we first considered offering testing as an outreach project at General Assembly this year I began to look for people who would get tested and talk about it publicly. When I sat down to discuss this with my minister, Reverend Rebecca Zelensky, she deadpanned, "I'll do it" before I had the chance to asky my question. That was the stepping off point in Terre Haute. I don't think I've had anyone tell me no after she publicly announced that she had been tested. Perhaps we need one group or congregation from within the Disciples Denomination to step up and go first.

Any takers?


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bill Introduced to Fund Responsible Sex Ed

I just received this in my email and wanted to pass it along

Legislation to federally fund comprehensive, medically accurate sex education in public schools was introduced in both chambers of Congress on Tuesday. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey and Rep. Barbara Lee of California, both Democrats, submitted the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act, "A bill to provide for the reduction of adolescent pregnancy, HIV rates, and other sexually transmitted diseases, and for other purposes."

At the moment, federal funding for sex education is available only to states teaching abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that prohibit discussion of condom use and other forms of contraception. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the federal government has spent more than $1 billion providing funding to abstinence-only programs whose federal guidelines mandate defining marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife."

HRC president Joe Solmonese said, “Our nation’s youth deserve the facts about how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The federal government has tied states’ hands when it comes to providing prevention education to teens.”

The bill has five cosponsors in the Senate and 27 in the House and has been referred to the committee of jurisdiction in both chambers for review.

By Kerry Eleveld

The Advocate Online

On the road in Indiana

Today the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network is on the road in Rockville, Indiana. Parke County has a population of just over 17,000 Hoosiers and today we're at the Parke County Family Health and Help Center. Parke County is currenty home to about 25 people who have tested positive for HIV. The number of new diagnoses in this small county in western Indiana doubled in 2008. I was contacted by Susie Waymire, the Administrator of the Parke County Health Department a few weeks ago about conducting outreach testing here. Until today there was not free HIV test available in Parke County. The only option for testing was through local physicians, which runs in excess fo $100.00

As the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network continues to grow, we hope to offer more outreach testing opportunities such as this through our member organizations around the country.

I want to take a moment to thank our friends at Starbucks Coffee Company for their recent donation to the network to help offset the cost of testing at this years General Assembly in Indianapolis.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the road again

It's a busy week for me this week. Today I attending a continuing educational seminar entitled 'Hot Topics in HIV/STD. Today's meeting focused on Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV).

In 2008, Indiana had more than 28,000 reports of sexually transmitted diseases. Even more incredible is that there are more than 8,000 people known to be living with HIV or AIDS in Indiana and many others unaware of their status. Despite this, many providers fail to test and treat the many individuals who may be at risk. Today’s STD/HIV conference provided an update of HIV infection, including review of a study that suggests individuals with HIV should be started on antiretrovirals sooner than previously recommended. In addition, we highlighted genital herpes, a genital ulcer disease that increases chances of contracting HIV.

When providing comprehensive HIV/STI prevention education it’s important to stay abreast of changes in detection and treatment. I attend at least one continuing education class per month.

Tomorrow I will be attending the Statewide Community Planning Group meeting. Take a look at the CPG website to see exactly what we do:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

You asked for more about me...

A VERY intelligent young lady wrote the following bio for me... I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do!

Joseph Thornton Grieb, directs the efforts of the AIDS Ministry Network of the Disciples Home Missions.
‘Jody’ is co-founder of Wabash Valley People Attempting To Help, Inc. a community based organization in Terre Haute, Indiana that provides prevention education and testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and support and advocacy for those living with and affected by those diseases. Jody works extensively with the Indiana State Department of Health, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in evaluating current effective behavioral interventions in the HIV arena.

He is a passionate advocate for HIV/AIDS/STI awareness, LGBTI health and wellness, and drug use and addictions education. He travels extensively sharing a message of hope and spiritual renewal. A survivor of drug addiction and HIV, Jody brings his personal experiences to help develop intervention and harm reduction programs. His combination of personal narrative and community dialogue brings light to a set of challenging social and spiritual topics.

Jody continues his education at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in western Indiana with plans to enter Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis in 2011. Jody, his partner Roland and their daughter Delena live in Terre Haute, Indiana where they are very involved members in Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Jody enjoys spending time with his family, photography and really misses his motorcycle.

A space of our own

I have received some emails inquiring about how things are at Disciples Center. The best answer I have is, “I’ll let you know when I get there”.

I actually don’t work for Disciples Home Missions, I’m the ‘Volunteer Director’. Now with a little play on words you can figure out that I volunteer as the Director and I occasionally direct Volunteers.

I actually live in Terre Haute, Indiana. Terre Haute is about 1 hour west of Indianapolis on the Indiana/Illinois line. I co-founded a community based organization called Wabash Valley People Attempting To Help, Inc. or PATH for short. I love acronyms! Ask any of my friends.

The mission of Wabash Valley PATH is to provide prevention and educational services to increase awareness and reduce the transmission of HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections. PATH covers Region 8 of Indiana including Clay, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo counties. We are the only outreach organization in this area. We started about a year ago, just my partner and I in the kitchen discussing the number of new HIV infections in our area and we agreed that something needed to be done about it and the next thing you know I was trying to figure out an acronym for it ;)

We started out on a shoestring budget with a donation from our local (not defunct) AIDS Task Force. Those first few months it was like pulling teeth trying to get someone to let us do prevention classes… now we have a hard time finding enough volunteer educators to cover the classes we have scheduled.

I eventually heard about the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network at Disciples Home Missions and I contacted Kaye Edwards to see what support the Network could provide for us. Kaye told me that due to funding cuts and other issues the Network was in need of some revival and I volunteered to help out…. The rest as they say, is history.

Today was a banner day for us at PATH and the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network. After working out of a guest bedroom in our home for nearly a year, we moved into our own space. Thanks to some hard fundraising efforts PATH is very fortunate to be able to lease (at a very low price) space from the Terre Haute Housing Authority and as we say around here, what’s good for PATH is good for the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network. We have 3 offices and a large conference center which can be used for support groups and educational meetings. If you’re ever in the Terre Haute, Indiana area, drop by and see us!

As soon as we get things all arranged I’ll post some pictures for you to see. Please continue to pray for us as the Spirit helps us find paths to healing, wholeness, and abundant life.



Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lutheran Bishops Get Tested

From the Chicago Tribune:

"In Solidarity with HIV Victims, Lutheran Bishops Get Tested"
Chicago Tribune (03.05.09):: Manya A. Brachear

On March 5 in Chicago, bishops from the United States' largest Lutheran denomination were publicly tested for HIV as a way to show support for those affected by the disease and raise awareness of its impact at home and abroad.

"We in the US tend to think of this as a global pandemic unrelated to people in the US," said Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. "For me as a married heterosexual man to be tested is a reminder that all communities are affected, if not infected."

Bishop Wayne Miller of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod said that getting tested for HIV was his show of solidarity with members of the city's companion synod, the Central Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa. He also hoped it would signal to his own 206 congregations they should not be ashamed to be tested and learn their status. "There's still so much shame and secrecy, people end up hiding from the treatment and care they need," he said.

Hanson, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation, said the church must do more to embrace those living with HIV/AIDS, as it has for other pandemics such as malaria. At its biennial assembly in August, the chief legislative authority of the ECLA is expected to approve a new national strategy on HIV/AIDS.

The Rev. Donald Messer, executive director of the Center for Church and Global AIDS, praised the bishops, noting "pastors and laity look to their episcopal leaders for these kinds of symbolic gestures to show that they are important." Messer, a Methodist pastor, urged his own denomination to follow the Lutherans' example.

What a great show of support from the Bishops of the Lutheran Church.. I think it's time to plan to test the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Let me know what you think....

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Social Networking pages for the HIV/AIDS Ministry Network

AMN on Facebook:

Facebook Cause:

A proposed Declaration of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

We are members of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), called by God to affirm a life of hope and healing in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Our traditions call us to embody and proclaim hope, and to celebrate life and healing in the midst of suffering.

HIV and AIDS are an affliction of the whole human family, a condition in which we all participate. It is a scandal that many people suffer and grieve in secret. We seek hope amidst the moral and medical tragedies of this pandemic in order to pass on hope for generations to come.

We recognize the fact that there have been barriers among us based on religion, race, class, age, nationality, physical ability, gender and sexual orientation which have generated fear, persecution and even violence. We call upon all sectors of our society, particularly our faith communities, to adopt as highest priority the confrontation of racism, classism, ageism, sexism and homophobia.

As long as one member of the human family is afflicted, we all suffer. In that spirit, we declare our response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic:

1. We are called to love: God does not punish with sickness or disease but is present together with us as the source of our strength, courage and hope. The God of our understanding is, in fact, greater than HIV/AIDS.

2. We are called to compassionate care: We must assure that all who are affected by the pandemic [regardless of religion, race, class, age, nationality, physical ability, gender or sexual orientation] will have access to compassionate, non-judgmental care, respect, support and assistance.

3. We are called to witness and do justice: We are committed to transform public attitudes and policies, supporting the enforcement of all local and federal laws to protect the civil liberties of all persons with HIV/AIDS and other disabilities. We further commit to speak publicly about HIV prevention and compassion for all people living with HIV/AIDS.

4. We promote prevention: Within the context of our respective faiths, we encourage accurate and comprehensive information for the public regarding HIV transmission and means of prevention. We vow to develop comprehensive HIV prevention programs for our youth and adults.

5. We acknowledge that we are a global community: While the scourge of HIV/AIDS is devastating to the United States, it is much greater in magnitude in other parts of the world communi
ty. We recognize our responsibility to encourage HIV education and prevention policies, especially in the global religious programs we support.

6. We deplore the sins of intolerance and bigotry: HIV/AIDS is not a "gay" disease. It affects men, women and children of all races. We reject the intolerance and bigotry that have caused many to deflect their energy, blame those infected, and become preoccupied with issues of sexuality, worthiness, class status or chemical dependency.

7. We challenge our society: Because economic disparity and poverty are major contributing factors in the HIV/AIDS pandemic and barriers to prevention and treatment, we call upon all sectors of society to seek ways of eliminating poverty in a commitment to a future of hope and security.

8. We are committed to action: We will seek ways, individually and within our faith communities, to respond to the needs around us.

Adapted from the Interfaith Declaration on AIDS.

Very busy month

It's been a very busy month here at the AIDS Ministry Network. Our Indiana based group has a very busy calendar and I've also heard from a couple of other Disciples who are also in HIV prevention.

First things first! Plans are well underway to conduct outreach education and testing at General Assembly this summer in Indianapolis. I posted a flyer just a moment ago, feel free to contact me with any questions about what we're doing there.

I received an email from Pastor Willie J. Smith Jr. this past week. Pastor Smith and I spoke via telephone for some time about the HIV prevention and testing work that he is doing in rural Alabama and in the Alabama Correctional System. Pastor Smith has been involved in this ministry for several years now and he pays for most of his supplies out of his own pocket! What a blessing to know that there are others out there sharing the Good News of Jesus the Christ through HIV/AIDS Ministry. I hope in the future I'll hear from others who are doing the same.

Planning for Indianapolis.