timothy_sloan_web.jpg(AP)- WASHINGTON — Houston pastor Timothy W. Sloan has felt for years that he needed to talk about HIV and AIDS with his congregation.

But he worried the 3,000 mostly African-American parishioners at St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church in Humble, Texas, could be offended.

Then a year and a half ago, he joined a group of pastors organized by the NAACP to write a manual for church leaders like himself on talking to their congregations about a disease that has a disproportionate effect on the black community.

Now Sloan hopes others can use the manual he helped create to talk to their congregations. The NAACP this month released it and a 61-page activity manual at the group’s convention in Texas.

Some say it makes sense for the nation’s largest civil rights organization to be involved in the discussion of HIV and AIDS. Black churches have been reluctant to talk about the disease.

That’s in part because the topic is wrapped up with sex and homosexuality, often taboo topics.

More than 250 faith leaders gave input on the manual during an 11-city tour conducted by the NAACP. A total of 400 of the manuals were printed, and they are also available online.

Earlier this month, Sloan got a rapid HIV test in front of his church. After services, more than 160 people waited in line, some for two hours, to get their own tests at a church-organized testing drive. Sloan said he hopes other ministers have similar success.

“It's imperative we begin this conversation,” he said.

Photo: Timothy W. Sloan