Author(s): Bluthenthal RN, Palar K, Mendel P, Kanouse DE, Corbin DE,
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Abstract HIV-related stigmas have been seen as a barrier to greater religious congregation involvement in HIV prevention and care in the United States and elsewhere. We explored congregational and community norms and attitudes regarding HIV, sexuality, and drug use through a qualitative case study of 14 diverse religious congregations in Los Angeles County, California between December 2006 and May 2008. Data collected included semi-structured interviews with 57 clergy and lay leaders across the congregations, structured observations of congregational activities, review of archival documents, and a questionnaire on congregational characteristics. Across and within congregations, we found a wide range of views towards HIV, people with HIV, and populations at risk for HIV, from highly judgmental and exclusionary, to "loving the sinner, not the sin," to accepting and affirming. Attitudes and norms about HIV, homosexuality, and substance abuse appeared to be related to the type and intensity of congregational HIV-related activities. However, even among the higher activity congregations, we found a range of perceptions, including ones that were stigmatizing. Results suggest that affirming norms and attitudes are not a prerequisite for a congregation to initiate HIV activities, a finding relevant for HIV service providers and researchers seeking to engage congregations on this issue. HIV stigma reduction is not a prerequisite for congregational HIV involvement: both may occur simultaneously, or one before the other, and they dynamically affect each other. Strategies that are congruent with congregations' current levels of comfort and openness around HIV can themselves facilitate a process of attitudinal and normative change. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Soc Sci Med
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy