Researchers Studying How Religious Groups Provide HIV/AIDS Support, Education
Researchers from the University of Cincinnati are conducting a two-year study funded by NIH to determine how to provide HIV support and education in a faith-based setting, which sometimes can contradict religious doctrine, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
In a study published in December 2006 and conducted by the University of Cincinnati's Institute for the Study of Health, about 80% of HIV-positive people surveyed indicated a specific religious preference; however, 24% said they felt alienated in their religious communities. Sixty percent said they did not feel welcome, and 10% reported leaving their churches because of their HIV-positive status, according to the study.
Joel Tsevat, a principle researcher in the study, said, "HIV is interesting in that there are mostly benefits (resulting from) spirituality and religion." He added, "On the other hand, with a disease like HIV, there are situations in which religion can make things worse, with the stigma of HIV, and patients believing HIV is a punishment from God, or that they don't have to take their medications and God will heal them."
In response to the previous findings, Tsevat and Magdalena Szaflarski, both of the Institute for the Study of Health, are conducting a study that includes interviews with 60 HIV-positive people from the University of Cincinnati's Infectious Disease Clinic, as well as clergy from 150 churches in Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. According to the Enquirer, the researchers hope to identify practices and behaviors of religious organizations that encourage acceptance of and education about HIV/AIDS. The researchers will not identify the clergy members being interviewed when the study concludes but will create a reference source for HIV-positive people that will include religious organizations providing faith-based education and support, the Enquirer reports (Howell, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/10).