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HIV/AIDS Resource Center for African Americans
Kai Chandler Lois Crenshaw Gary Paul Wright Fortunata Kasege Keith Green Lois Bates Greg Braxton Vanessa Austin Bernard Jackson

Recommendations for Churches Building HIV Ministries

These recommendations come from a group of Faith in Prevention Churches that worked to build their own HIV/AIDS ministries from 2004 to 2005. All of the recommendations were gathered in The Faith in Prevention Initiative 2005 Community Recommendations Report.

Understand how faith and public health are connected
Notice how often basic health practices are addressed in the message of your faith. Integrate health and healing into your frame of reference in studying and understanding scripture.

Get to know your local resources
It is important to find out what resources already exist in the community your ministry will be serving. You can find statistics about HIV in your community from your local city or county health department. Local HIV service organizations and health providers can be valuable partners for events, and help you get the word out about your ministry. Local business owners may let you post fliers about your events or help provide funding or services for your ministry.

Collaborate with other faith-based organizations
An important part of our partnership was the ability for us to talk to other faith-based organizations about our ministry. This allowed us to share ideas, collaborate on events, expand our resources, and help each other with the challenges we faced.

Keep the message out there!
It is important that people hear HIV prevention messages and hear them often. Look for innovative ways to get your message out. We used our sermons, newsletters, bulletin boards, health fairs, workshops, retreats, and one-on-one conversations to get the word out. Sometimes it can be frustrating when people don't seem to be listening, but it is important to keep finding ways to reach out.

Get tested
By going through the HIV counseling and testing process you will be better able to support others through it. You will also provide a good example to others, and emphasize the point that everyone is at risk for HIV, and we all need to be vigilant in practicing good HIV prevention skills. Your local city or county health department can help you find a local testing site.

Get involved in policy
One of the opportunities we had was to participate in the Illinois HIV/AIDS Lobby Days. We received day long training on lobbying, and then talked to our state legislatures. Shortly after our visit important HIV legislation was voted on and passed! We were able to help make a difference in that vote. We also participated in letter writing and phone calls to our representatives. Good policy can really improve the lives of people living with HIV, and also provide more funding to prevent the spread of HIV. It is important that as faith-based leaders in the fight against HIV that we hold our representatives accountable. In Illinois, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago has an action alert system that will let you know what legislation is currently being considered at the state and national level.

Learn everything you can
The more knowledge you have, the more your ministry can pass it on. We went through the American Red Cross Instructor Training to learn how to present basic HIV prevention information, and attended monthly meetings where we learned information about HIV and also about how to run the administrative side of our ministries. Reach out to your local and national HIV resource organizations to gain more information. Attend workshops and retreats geared towards faith leaders working in HIV ministry to meet others and gather additional ideas for your ministry.

Share what you have learned
Get the word out to others. We really learned a lot as we shared with each other over this past year, and we want others to learn from it, too. We were often able to help other local faith-based organizations start their ministries by sharing what we had learned. The more of us there are in this fight the sooner we can stop the spread of HIV!

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This article was provided by AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

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