‘Black Faith and HIV’ aims to end the epidemic by involving religious leaders

HIV disproportionately affects African Americans. So, given the important role that faith-based organizations play in Black communities, it makes sense to engage faith leaders to help end the HIV epidemic. That’s exactly the goal of Black Faith and HIV, a new initiative launched by the Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in North Carolina.

The Faith Coordinating Center was founded last year with a $5 million grant from pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences’ COMPASS Initiative (the name stands for “COMmitment to Partnership in Addressing HIV/AIDS in Southern States”).

According to the Black Faith and HIV Initiative website, BlackFaith.orgthe Wake Forest center “has funded 85 local and national organizations committed to engaging faith leaders and their respective communities on HIV stigma to advance efforts to end the HIV epidemic, particularly among poorer populations.” more vulnerable”.

“Faith-based organizations continue to play an important and influential role in the lives of African Americans living with and affected by HIV in the American South,” said Reverend Dr. Shonda Jones, EdD, founder of the Faith Coordinating Center to a Wake Forest press release. “The Black Faith and HIV initiative is an opportunity for us to re-engage interfaith leaders and equip them with the tools to provide spiritual care, improve mental health, and promote medication adherence among people living with HIV. “

The initiative will serve as a hub for interfaith communities. It will engage faith leaders and groups through educational and communication materials, in-person professional development opportunities, and other resources. The initiative will also appoint HIV and faith ambassadors and train community leaders and members to challenge HIV-related stigma and provide opportunities for faith groups to partner with healthcare networks, according to the press release.

“We are working to build the Black Faith and HIV initiative into a national movement to connect interfaith communities engaged in HIV engagement,” added Allison Matthews, PhD, executive director of Wake Forest’s Faith Coordinating Center. “It is especially important for us to engage faith leaders in the southern United States due to the growing number of new HIV infections in the region. We have the tools to end the HIV epidemic, but we still have to fight stigma, and religious leaders play a key role in eradicating stigma.

There are approximately 10,000 national congregations whose members include people living with HIV, according to the Wake Forest press release, which adds, “The faith community has an opportunity to help educate members, provide resources and fight against stigma. There are 18,500 predominantly Black-led congregations that provide programs or services to people living with HIV.

The video below from Wake Forest explores the theme of faith and HIV in the South:

In 2020, African Americans made up 12% of people ages 13 and older in the United States, but accounted for 43% of new HIV diagnoses. Although new HIV diagnoses among African Americans are declining — they fell 10% between 2015 and 2019 — overall rates are higher in the South, where in 2020 black Americans accounted for 52% of new diagnoses of HIV, but represented only 19% of the population. population.

For more, see “National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2022,” “Southern HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2022,” and “POZ Basics: HIV and Afro-Americans.”

Gilead, which makes many blockbuster HIV drugs, launched the COMPASS initiative in 2017, committing $100 million over a decade to the fight against HIV in the South. Each year, the initiative awards millions of dollars in grants to local groups.

In general, grantees receive COMPASS funding for programs that reduce HIV stigma, raise HIV awareness, build organizational capacity, address substance abuse, and promote mental health, trauma-informed care, and well-being. . Fellows are selected by four coordination centres.

COMPASS Initiative Coordinating Centers include:

  • Emory University Rollins School of Public Health
  • Southern AIDS Coalition
  • University of Houston Undergraduate College of Social Work
  • Wake Forest University School of Theology.

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