How Religious Groups Provide HIV/AIDS Support

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Researchers from the University of Cincinnati are conducting a two-year study funded by NIHto determine how to provide HIV support and education in a faith-basedsetting, which sometimes can contradict religious doctrine, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

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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 specificreligious preference; however, 24% said they felt alienated in theirreligious communities. Sixty percent said they did not feel welcome,and 10% reported leaving their churches because of their HIV-positivestatus, according to the study.

Joel Tsevat, a principleresearcher in the study, said, "HIV is interesting in that there aremostly benefits (resulting from) spirituality and religion." He added,"On the other hand, with a disease like HIV, there are situations inwhich religion can make things worse, with the stigma of HIV, andpatients believing HIV is a punishment from God, or that they don'thave to take their medications and God will heal them."

Inresponse to the previous findings, Tsevat and Magdalena Szaflarski,both of the Institute for the Study of Health, are conducting a studythat includes interviews with 60 HIV-positive people from theUniversity of Cincinnati's Infectious Disease Clinic, as well as clergyfrom 150 churches in Greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.According to the Enquirer, the researchers hope toidentify practices and behaviors of religious organizations thatencourage acceptance of and education about HIV/AIDS. The researcherswill not identify the clergy members being interviewed when the studyconcludes but will create a reference source for HIV-positive peoplethat will include religious organizations providing faith-basededucation and support, the Enquirer reports (Howell, Cincinnati Enquirer, 8/10).
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