The Gilead COMPASS Initiative® Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity announced the launch of the “Black Faith and HIV” initiative, a dynamic hub for interfaith communities to access educational and communications resources, virtual and in-person professional development opportunities, and sustainable mechanisms for addressing the HIV epidemic in their communities.
“Faith-based organizations continue to hold a significant and influential role in the lives of African American people living with and affected by HIV in the American South,” said Rev. Dr. Shonda Jones, Founder, the Gilead COMPASS Initiative® Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. “The Black Faith and HIV initiative is an opportunity for us to re-engage interfaith leaders and equip them with the tools to provide spiritual care, improve mental health, and promote medication adherence in people living with HIV.”
The initiative builds upon “The Black Church and HIV: A Social Justice Imperative,” a faith-based partnership between Gilead Sciences and the NAACP that created an important and unprecedented foundation of knowledge and skills for Black faith communities to address the HIV epidemic. From 2013 to 2018, this partnership engaged more than 2,000 faith communities around reducing the impact of HIV for Black Americans in the United States.
HIV has a significant impact on the Black community, in fact Black Americans account for 42 percent of new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Additionally, there are an estimated 10,000 national congregations whose members include people living with HIV. The faith community has an opportunity to help educate members, provide resources and fight stigma. There are 18,500 majority Black-led congregations that provide programs or services for people living with HIV.
“Black Faith and HIV” will be a centralized resource for faith communities to connect with each other and access resources to advance their efforts in ending the epidemic.
This initiative will provide communications and educational materials for use across the Black Faith and HIV network, providing opportunities for partnerships between faith-based and healthcare networks, and building the capacity of faith-based organizations to engage in HIV stigma reduction. Long-term plans for the initiative include establishing an HIV & Faith ambassadors program and providing online, non-credit bearing certificates to train faith community members to address HIV stigma and faith-based trauma in their communities.
“We are working to make the Black Faith and HIV initiative a national movement to connect interfaith communities committed to HIV engagement,” said Dr. Allison Matthews, Executive Director, the Gilead COMPASS Initiative® Faith Coordinating Center at Wake Forest University School of Divinity. “It is especially important for us to engage faith leaders in the US South because of the rising numbers of new HIV infections in the region. We have the tools to end the HIV epidemic, but we still need to combat stigma and faith leaders play a key role in eradicating stigma.”
To learn more about the Black Faith and HIV initiative, please visit https://blackfaith.org. The Black Faith and HIV site will host exclusive access to premiere toolkits such as the upcoming toolkit on “Navigating Faith and Black LGBTQ+ Experiences.” In 2023, the site will also launch its first online learning modules for those interested in acquiring skills for HIV and faith work. Individuals who sign up for the Black Faith and HIV newsletter will receive first looks and access to new site features and offerings.
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