Black pastors set HIV test example in Nashville

Janell Ross | 7/9/2008, 5:06 a.m.

After completing his own in-pulpit test last Sunday, Maynard talked about his own fears of HIV tests while in the Army. Maynard was young, loved women and, in his words, was “unsaved.”

“You haven’t never prayed like you pray if you are a sinner about to take that test,” Maynard said to the congregation. “But that was before I was saved. That was ‘before.’ Now, we are dealing with the ‘after.’”

Maynard rejects the idea that traditional church teaching about abstinence before marriage and fidelity after makes discussions about HIV and AIDS inappropriate for church. Health care — including HIV testing — is a part of what churches need to talk about. So, too, is risky behavior, he said.

Directly after the service at Southside, about 25 people who watched Maynard’s testing took their own test. Marilyn Lawrence was one of them.

A few years ago, her brother died of AIDS.

“This is a church where you get in where you fit in, come on in as you are and get what you need,” said Lawrence, a retired home health care worker. “For a lot of us, for me, that includes a test.”

Over at Spruce Street, about 10 people went downstairs for testing right after the service.

The results of the rapid HIV tests were available the same day but were given to test takers over the phone later for added privacy, Metro Health Department officials said.

But at Spruce Street, the assessment of one of its oldest members was available.

“You know, I was glad to see it, I think a bit surprised, but glad,” said Mary McEwen, who has been a member of the church today known as Spruce Street for 80 years. “Our ministers have always been guides for our people [African Americans] and our churches involved in the critical issues in our lives.”

(The Tennessean)