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A London-based charity is calling for churches to encourage their congregation to be tested for HIV and not to “condemn people” if they are positive.

African people living in the UK with HIV are afraid to be tested for fear of religious persecution, according to the Actionplus Foundation.

Rev Fred Annin, founder of the charity, said the social stigma surrounding HIV and people’s fear of being thrown out of churches was wrong.

He added: “The Bible does not condemn people with HIV as cursed. It shouldn’t be taboo to discuss it in churches.

“It’s a medical condition and people need medical help. Prayer cannot bring our health back when we ignore medicine.”

The organisation has launched a training programme for church leaders in an attempt to reduce the number of black African people who are HIV-positive.

60 church leaders have already received some training from the charity. It is also setting up medical testing in faith-based clinics to encourage people to get themselves tested.

The latest estimates from the Health Protection Agency state that 37 people in every 1000 in the black African community are HIV-positive in the UK. That compares to 1.5 people in every 1000 for the general population of the UK.

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