Fact Sheet: Faith Communities and HIV/AIDS
December 1, 2001
American faith communities have made major contributions to the U.S. response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with programs organized by at least 5,000 formal and informal faith-based HIV/AIDS organizations. Their actions are creating new models for cooperation among diverse groups, including the forging of new partnerships among religious, secular, and philanthropic organizations. Faith groups are playing critical roles in HIV/AIDS prevention, education and support.
Increasingly, more faith communities are speaking out and embracing AIDS issues. However, some are still silent about the epidemic or paralyzed by the issues that AIDS presents.
What Is a Faith Community?
According to the Council of Religious AIDS Networks, the term "communities of faith" is defined broadly to encompass groups organized around any set of beliefs or practices that involve a belief in a higher power or order, a larger organizing principle for life and the universe, or a system or code that links our values and actions to the idea that there is reason and purpose to our existence on Earth.
Faith-based responses to AIDS take diverse forms and exist at all levels. Some involve single denominations or communities, while others are interfaith programs. Many programs originated in individual congregations and have evolved into separate agencies, incorporating multiple groups.
Faith-based programs provide members with a way to express their faith and give of their energy and talents. Interfaith programs provide opportunities to link personal values to those of others.
[See "An Interfaith Declaration."]
Local Faith Communities Respond
Most faith-based services at the community level focus on primary care or support services. Some congregations have included HIV prevention and education programs.
There are numerous examples of highly successful community-level services organized and funded by faith communities or interfaith coalitions. Ministries include meal services, food banks, pastoral care/counseling, shelters for homeless HIV-positive women and their children, drop-in day care centers, hospices, housing, support services, training of care providers, support groups, and substance abuse and AIDS education programs.
In the spirit of social justice, many faith-based organizations have established national networks to coordinate AIDS services among their members.
Following are some examples of national faith-based responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the United States:
For more information on faith-based responses to HIV/AIDS, contact The Council of Religious AIDS Networks at www.aidsfaith.com.
This article was provided by American Association for World Health. It is a part of the publication I Care ... Do You? Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century.