Clergy members take up the fight against HIV
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For decades, sexual health advocates have struggled to promote safer sex in a way that can get through to everyone, including religious individuals who may have strong opinions regarding birth control. Recently, researchers from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University have found that in response to the high rates of HIV among African Americans, clergy members in African American communities are willing to step in and promote HIV testing and treatment, using a strategy that is compatible with religious teaching.
"There is a common misperception that African American churches are unwilling to address the AIDS epidemic. This paper highlights some of the historical barriers to effectively engaging African American clergy in HIV prevention and provides recommendations from clergy for how to move forward," said researcher Amy Nunn.
The researchers spoke to African American clergy members in Philadelphia, where seven in 10 new HIV infections in the city are among black residents. They found that nearly every person they spoke to said that they could and would preach and promote HIV testing and treatment.
Nunn said that there has been too much focus on trying to combat risky behavior to lower HIV rates. She believes that the more effective route is to promote testing and treatment to reduce the chance that a person will transmit the infection.
Many of the religious leaders that the researchers spoke to said that they were already working to reduce HIV rates in their communities. One challenge the clergy members said they faced is that many people in their congregations do not feel comfortable hearing about sexual matters in their church or mosque.
This suggests that religious leaders may want to try setting up more community workshops where they can discuss sensitive health issues.
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