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Religious Leaders Join The Balm In Gilead to Support The Big Coffee Project, to Help Fight HIV/AIDS in the United States and in Africa
Date:3/6/2008

New Initiative Launched During the 19th Annual Black Church Week of Prayer

for the Healing of AIDS, March 2-8, 2008

NEW YORK, March 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The Balm In Gilead introduced today, The Big Coffee Project, a partnership between The Balm In Gilead and Sweet Unity Farms Gourmet Coffee, a Tanzania-based company, to support the elimination of AIDS both in the United States and in Africa. This initiative, announced during a press conference marking the 19th annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, generates funding directly supporting HIV prevention and care in the United States and the continuum of children and adult care, as well as clean water projects in Tanzania.

David Robinson, President/CEO, Sweet Unity Farms Gourmet Coffee and son of Baseball Legend Jackie Robinson and Pernessa Seele, Founder and CEO, the Balm In Gilead have joined together to fight HIV/AIDS on two continents. According to Seele, "While the Balm In Gilead and Sweet Unity Farms differ in terms of organizational structure, not-for-profit and for profit respectively, the core messages of improving the quality of life throughout the African Diaspora is the centerpiece of both entities. The message of this partnership -- the power of two socially conscious brands coming together to promote positive global change -- will further fortify and communicate the positioning of leadership both organizations posses as change agents for our communities."

The Balm In Gilead, along with its national religious leadership, is announcing a call to action for all individuals, faith institutions, businesses and organizations to join the crusade for AIDS education, prevention, testing and compassionate care and services in both the United States and Africa by purchasing Sweet Unity Farms Gourmet Coffee at http://www.thebigcoffeeproject.org. Funds generated from The Big Coffee Project will also support local farmers of the Mshikamano Farmers Group located in the Southern Highlands of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The Mshikamano Farmers Group is headed by David Robinson who has been living in Tanzania for more than 20 years is a Tanzanian coffee farmer, a member of a 400 member cooperative, coffee exporter and buyer. His partnership with the Balm In Gilead helps him to continue his legacy of both his father and mother by lifting the consciousness of the global village to a higher way of thinking and being.

"With your next cup of coffee, you can help can help save a life! This is another historic moment for the global village in the fight against AIDS," says W. Franklyn Richardson, senior pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Mt. Vernon, NY.

HIV/AIDS among Black Americans

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Black Americans living with AIDS increased by 33% between 2001 and 2005 and although Black Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. population, they account for half of AIDS cases. Black women account for the vast majority of new AIDS cases among women and while Black teens (aged 13-19) represent only 15% of U.S. teenagers, they account for more than 70% of new AIDS cases reported among teens. In Sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 24.5 million adults and children are living with HIV.

The Black Church Week of Prayer for the healing of AIDS, March 2-8. 2008, unites thousands of churches across the country with the Balm In Gilead and its esteemed platform of religious and political leaders to mobilize the Black community in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The week-long event, oldest and largest AIDS awareness program targeting the Black faith community, mobilizes thousands of faith institutions and millions of church goers to champion AIDS education, testing and compassionate care in the African American community. Churches and community-based organizations can find out how to become involved in the Black Church Week of Prayer by calling 888-225-6243 or visiting http://www.balmingilead.org.

Seele adds, "The Black Church Week of Prayer is the organization's most visible response to those who have criticized faith communities as being "silent" in the face of AIDS. By uniting leaders at the national level and providing local churches with theologically appropriate methods and materials for addressing AIDS at the grassroots level, the Balm In Gilead and its programs empower Black faith communities to respond effectively to this devastating pandemic."

For more information

The Balm In Gilead is a 501(c) (3), not-for-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health status of people of the African Diaspora by building the capacity of faith communities to address life-threatening diseases, especially HIV/AIDS in the United States and in Africa. Churches can find out how to get involved in The Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS and to support The Big Coffee Project, by logging onto the organization's Web sites at http://www.balmingilead.org or http://www.thebigcoffeeproject.org. Information is also available at 888-225-6243. The 19th annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS is being supported by Abbott.

About Abbott

In addition to sponsoring this conference, through the "I Stand With Magic" program, Abbott and the Magic Johnson Foundation are joining forces to address the alarming rise of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Through this partnership, Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Abbott has created educational activities and testing events in cities with high HIV infection rates. For more information and to "stand with Magic" in the fight against HIV/AIDS, visit http://www.istandwithmagic.com.


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SOURCE The Balm In Gilead
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