Ward 8 Council member Trayon White stops by The Washington Informer booth during Places of Worship Advisory Board's health fair on Aug. 28. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Ward 8 Council member Trayon White stops by The Washington Informer booth during Places of Worship Advisory Board's health fair on Aug. 28. (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Faith and health came together on a recent Saturday morning at the Places of Worship Advisory Board’s (POWAB) annual health and wellness fair in Southeast.

The health and wellness fair Aug. 28 marked an opportunity to expose residents to both spiritual and health care resources while distributing fresh food and back-to-school supplies, without charge, in the Temple of Praise parking lot at 700 Southern Avenue SE.

“We tend to center our activities in places where we know people need the services and care the most and get the least access to services,” says Rev. Darryl! LC Moch, co-chair of POWAB.

According to Moch, the goal of POWAB is to bridge the gap between faith-based communities and health care organizations. The group, originally created as a source of HIV information, has now expanded as a resource for all health-related topics and has staged the health and wellness fair for five years.

D.C. Council member Trayon White praised POWAB’s efforts to meld the health care and faith-based communities and endorsed the need for unity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s great when we can bring all faiths together to serve God’s people because that’s what we are here to do, to use our gifts and talents to give back to the community,” White said.

Although a wide range of health care vendors were present at the fair, HIV information remained a high-profile topic for vendors at the midday gathering.

Anthony Gutierrez, senior community liaison at Gilead Sciences, Inc., says he is eager to both provide HIV information and combat the societal stigma associated with the virus that causes AIDS.

The stigma, he said, is difficult to combat because of a widespread embrace of the erroneous belief linking the disease to engaging in immoral behavior.

“Because our community has correlated HIV with these stigmatizing identities then there is a fear to even talk about it and address it. So, it’s really getting our community to realize getting HIV isn’t a moral failing.

“And then the other stigma is that HIV is death and getting our community to understand that while that may have been the case in the eighties, in 2021 HIV is a manageable illness,” said Gutierrez.

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