Join AIDS United for a powerful conversation ahead of National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Ahead of National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, join AIDS United for a conversation about how people of faith find and maintain community amid pandemics.

Each year, the last Sunday in August is chosen as National Faith HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to bring together Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and members of other religions to stop HIV together.

Faith plays a role in the lives of many of us throughout the United States and around the world, offering a source of comfort and strength amid hardships. The HIV-faith community has many lessons to share as we continue to navigate COVID-19.

On Aug. 27 at 3 p.m. EDT, we will host a panel of faith leaders in the HIV movement to talk about “Navigating Pandemics in Communities of Faith.”

The HIV-faith community has long played a role in the fight to end the HIV epidemic, with some churches even opening their doors as a source of testing and community when there was none. Unfortunately, many have also experienced trauma from faith leaders perpetuating stigma and shame.

For many of us, our commitment to social justice and to this work has been indelibly shaped by faith. Join us as we tackle this conversation in all its complexities.

This 90-minute conversation will be moderated by AIDS United’s Marvell Terry II. Jesse Milan Jr., president and CEO of AIDS United, will deliver a welcome.

We asked the panelist to tell us about themselves. Here’s what they had to say:

  • Rev. Brenton Miles Brock, a native of Montgomery, Alabama, is an ordained itinerant deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church through the Ninth Episcopal District under the leadership of Bishop Harry Seawright. Rev. Brock believes in being a voice for the voiceless, feeding those who are homeless, challenging systems that are unjust and unfair, and seeking justice for the marginalized and victimized. As passionate as he is about social justice, Rev. Brock is equally as intense about education and extracurricular activities. Currently, Rev. Brock is a doctoral student at Howard University, working with the English Department. His research interest focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to Black theology through 20th-century African American literature. As a theologically trained scholar-activist, his research focuses on the historical production and representation of God in African American literature. Committed to Christian faith, social justice and community service, Rev. Brock strives daily to live courageously through his commitment to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
  • Karen Lowe is co-founder of the Olive Branch Ministry, a faith-based harm reduction agency serving nine counties in the North Carolina Foothills/Piedmont. Karen is a North Carolina certified peer support specialist who works in the medication assisted recovery field. Karen also provides law enforcement assisted diversion peer support for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition and has a history of social justice education and advocacy that spans 15 years. Karen, who identifies as gender nonconforming, does not use pronouns, and believes that honoring an person’s humanity and personal journey is vital to building successful relationships.
  • Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera is a 30+ year veteran of the LGBTQ and labor movements. Lisbeth has extensive experience organizing and training at the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, racial/ethnic identity and culture specifically as they relate to communities of color in the United States. Lisbeth has crisscrossed the country training workers and community leaders in organizing, leadership development and community building strategies from a grassroots perspective. She has also done extensive work supporting LGBTQ leaders in America Latina. Lisbeth is the former director of faith outreach and training at the Human Rights Campaign, where she worked with people of faith across denominations to ensure we can be who we are, love who we love, and practice our faith free of judgment. A graduate of United Theological Seminary with a master’s in Theology and Social Transformation, she also has a background in biology and sociology with a solid Jesuit and SND formation. Justice and equity make her passions flare and her days move forward. Today Lisbeth lives in Hyattsville, Maryland, alongside her wife, Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz, and their chosen family, both human and furry!
  • Waheedah Shabazz-El converted to Al-Islam in 1972 and received an AIDS diagnosis in 2003. Currently Waheedah provides community workshops on HIV and Faith based in compassion, responsibility and justice. She is a member of Muslims for Progressive Values, a global Alliance of Inclusive Muslims. Waheedah also has close connections to Positive Muslims/South Africa. Here in the U.S., she is a member of RAHMA — Reaching All Muslims with HIV in America.
  • Valerie Spencer has worked in the arena of social services, focusing on health disparities as it relates to transgender persons and others within LGBT communities for over two decades (that’s 20 years, folks). Over time, she has worked with the federal government, health departments, universities, conferences and community-based organizations around the country ranging from capacity building training, national advocacy consultation and, of course, those keynote addresses she is famous for. The directive she gives herself is simple: to make the complex comprehensive. Valerie co-starred in the 2004 V-Day production of, “The Vagina Monologues,” featuring an all trans women cast and the accompanying documentary, “Beautiful Daughters,” which aired on LOGO and Showtime networks. In 2011, Christopher Street West Los Angeles Gay Pride honored Valerie with the prestigious Berman Shaffer award, given for her years of community service in progressive action. In this same year, the California Legislative LGBT Caucus conferred upon her a state resolution recognizing her as a statewide and national leader in the movement for LGBT political and social freedoms. She is the creator of Holistic Empowerment Institute, an organization which addresses empowerment on a social, cultural and holistic basis for LGBT communities. Valerie is a behavioral health counselor at APAIT providing general and trans-affirming therapy. She is also a national speaker for Merck Pharmaceuticals, conducting programs on issues affecting transgender communities. Valerie has completed a MSW degree at California State University Long Beach. Upon completion, she will pursue doctoral studies in holistic psychology. “Working to liberate, educate, and affirm trans people has been a part of my life’s work. Now I am re-creating myself into the holistic mental health practitioner/healer I have always wanted to be. This is the vision for my life!”

Registration is now open for this webinar. Please join us for this powerful conversation. For more resources on how to stop HIV together, click here.