Today kicked off the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States. One-fifth of them don't even know it.
Rochester has the second rate of HIV in New York State, outside of New York City.
In Monroe County more than two-thousand people are diagnosed with HIV. A Rochester congregation is hoping to reach those afflicted and those who may not yet realize they are living with the disease.
I'm proud that the church is finally stepping up and coming out of the fog of not wanting to deal with this very very sensitive issue of HIV and AIDS," said Weldon Thomas, Pastor New Bethel C.M.E. Church.
On this Sunday, Pastor Weldon Thomas's message hopes to reach those dealing with HIV and AIDS.
"We are realizing that our congregations are being affected more and more. The person sitting in the pew next to your may have a family member, we may have a family members who we've had to funeralize. People who are now living with HIV and AIDS and so. Pastors are becoming more sensitive to the fact that we must be at the forefront," added Thomas.
New Bethel C.M.E. Church provided free HIV and AIDS screening before and after this morning's service.
The pastor also shared the pulpit with Dr. Michael Keefer, a professor at the University of Rochester, conducting clinical research A Professor at the University of Rochester conducting clinical research on preventative vaccines that may one day be the answer to the epidemic.
"The relatively, I think, sad part is that we've known for a number of years that the African American and Latino communities are bearing a disproportionate burden of the illness. What's also distressing is also hitting young people, said Dr. Michael Keefer, University of Rochester.
Jackie Dozier with Minority Health Initiatives was also on hand to help guide those seeking help.
"If we can touch the lives of just one person, then we've done some service," said Jackie Dozier, Minority Health Initiatives.
As the title suggests the National Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS has various programs and services throughout the coming week, not here in Rochester but throughout the country.