November #129 : Keeping the Faith - by Nicole Joseph

POZ - Health, Life and HIV
Subscribe to:
POZ magazine
Join POZ: Facebook MySpace Twitter Pinterest
Tumblr Google+ Flickr MySpace
POZ Personals
Sign In / Join

Back to home » Archives » POZ Magazine issues

Table of Contents

Practicing What She Preaches

Keeping the Faith

Missionary Man

Raging Bull

Belly Flop

Dances With Dog

Stop, Go, But Proceed With Caution

Sneak Peek

Bar Exam

Thanks in Advance

Word Up!

What Gives

Team Spirit

Deal or No Deal?

Electile Dysfunction

Take as Directed

Silver Screening

Race for a Cure?

Rio Bravo

Time of the Month

That Masked Man

Reins of Terror

I’m Outta Here

Editor’s Letter-November 2006

Mailbox-November 2007

Catch of the Month-November 2007

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

email print

November 2006

Keeping the Faith

by Nicole Joseph

HIV positive Rev. Dr. Keith Riddle helps positive church leader Charlene Bowen-Kea minister to other positive people—and to herself

Charlene: I belong to the Methodist church, and I told my congregation I was HIV positive after my husband died from AIDS last September. I was worried about disclosing to them because sometimes people who claim to be very religious think that you must have done something wrong to contract HIV. I decided to start an AIDS ministry at my church because I realized that there hadn’t been any support for my husband when he was sick. As a new church leader, I still worry about how people in the church perceive me. Does that bother you sometimes?

Keith: Yes. But I think a lot of times, we develop our own image of how we’re perceived and project that onto the people around us. I am a Presbyterian reverend, and I tested positive in 2000. While I was waiting for my results, I said a prayer that they would come back negative. I’ve always felt that people with HIV are viewed as lepers in the church. My biggest fear at first, though, was that God wouldn’t love me anymore.

Charlene: I know that feeling. The church is supposed to be there to help people and to lift them up. God said, “Come to me as you are.” How do I get people to understand that God loves everyone and that HIV is not a punishment?

Keith: You have to challenge their preconceptions. I have dealt with people who’ve said that HIV is God’s vengeance against a gay community or people who use drugs or whatever stereotype they want to use. People who are living with HIV have the power to discount that. I don’t believe in a God that utilizes something like HIV to hurt people. I’ve never once blamed God for my becoming infected. I’ve beaten myself up a few times, but I’ve never been angry at God. As a church leader, you are called to stand up and challenge people to look beyond their prejudices.

Charlene: Then how do I tell them this is an issue people need to talk openly about? My pastor doesn’t want to offend anyone by talking about sex, condoms or the realities of HIV. I think people don’t want to hear about those things in church.

Keith: The challenge in a church is to make people uncomfortable to the point of going out and doing something about it. The church always has been and always will be a center of relaying information, and one of the things your ministry can do is relay that HIV is still there and that people need support. HIV positive people need three types of support: one, a spiritual guide to remind them that God loves them and that things are going to be OK; two, a good therapist who understands what they are going through; and three, a doctor they can talk with. If you have those three, your faith will help you through it.

Charlene: I’ve had a few people in the congregation tell me they’re HIV positive, but they don’t want to tell anybody else. What do positive people need in order to feel comfortable disclosing in a faith setting?

Keith: They need strong examples. People are scared of the unknown. Since I started speaking publicly about my status, I’ve had more young people come to me and disclose. Sometimes, you’ll make announcements asking people to step forward and get involved in the ministry, and nobody will respond. But later, someone will come up to you and thank you for being there for them and ask you to help them get to the point where you are today. That’s when your ministry is working.

Interested in becoming a mentor? Looking for advice? Visit to sign up.  

[Go to top]

Facebook Twitter Google+ MySpace YouTube Tumblr Flickr Instagram
Quick Links
Current Issue

HIV Testing
Safer Sex
Find a Date
Newly Diagnosed
HIV 101
Disclosing Your Status
Starting Treatment
Help Paying for Meds
Search for the Cure
POZ Stories
POZ Opinion
POZ Exclusives
Read the Blogs
Visit the Forums
Job Listings
Events Calendar
POZ on Twitter

Ask POZ Pharmacist

Talk to Us
Did you participate in an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2016?


more surveys
Contact Us
We welcome your comments!
[ about Smart + Strong | about POZ | POZ advisory board | partner links | advertising policy | advertise/contact us | site map]
© 2016 Smart + Strong. All Rights Reserved. Terms of use and Your privacy.
Smart + Strong® is a registered trademark of CDM Publishing, LLC.