COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - About 2,300 people in West Central Georgia live with HIV, and a local LGBT church is coming up with a new HIV ministry to help those in the Valley fighting the disease.
Pastor Colley Williams with Refuge Church of Jesus Christ is launching a new health ministry called Refuge Health Outreach Ministry. The health ministry took about three months to plan and organize, and Pastor Williams hopes to offer spiritual guidance and help for people battling HIV as well as other diseases like cancer and diabetes.
"We run on donations and volunteers," Pastor Williams said. "I know we have great HIV organizations out there and they offer great help, but I wanted to create one that focused on God's love and teaching. I wanted to help people on spiritual level. We will offer free confidential HIV testing, group or individual sessions, but I wanted to bring Christian morals into it."
Georgia ranks 6th highest in the nation for HIV, and Pastor Williams said the disease affects not just the LGBT community but everyone throughout the nation.
"This session and Refuge Church of Jesus Christ do not aim to only attract the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people," Pastor Williams said. "We want to go beyond that. We want to go to all people and invite everyone. We want to share God's love. Believe me; many people say HIV is God's punishment for homosexuals. It's not. It's no more of a punishment than cancer is for other people. We want to focus on God's love and his teaching. We want people to find hope through Jesus Christ because people need that. People need hope and encouragement."
Refuge Health Outreach Ministry will officially kick off in Mid-July or early August. Pastor Williams is hoping to have a group of at least 25 people who will attend sessions by then.
"If you need someone to talk to now, then you can email me via Refuge Church of Jesus Christ's website," Pastor Williams said. "We can schedule free confidential testing and sessions as soon as you want to."
Every National HIV Testing Day, Pastor Williams receives HIV testing as well.
"I try to check my status at least once a year to show my support," Pastor Williams said. "I want people to know it's important to get your status checked."
You can visit Refuge Church of Jesus Christ's website at www.refugechurchjc.org to donate or seek free confidential sessions and testing.
You can also visit Refuge Outreach Health Ministry's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/refugeoutreachministries/