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Advisor: Dr. Jim Plumb, Family and Community Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University.


The purpose of this study was to assess the attitudes/perceptions about the HIV/AIDS epidemic among African-American Churches in Philadelphia that support and inhibit the development of HIV/AIDS programs and services. Qualitative interviews were used for data collection. An interview guide consisted of four sections. All churches interviewed specifically served African-Americans. A total of 36 churches were contacted and 16 responded and agreed to participate (44% response rate). All interviews took place during January and February 2012 and were thematically analyzed using EXCEL and three independent coders. The churches’ denominations were Baptist, Pentecostal, African Methodist Episcopal (AME), Non-Denominational, and Presbyterian. Church memberships ranged from small (members) to large congregations (>500 members). Five major themes emerged: 1) responsibility to influence the African-American community and become a leader in addressing health issues, 2) educating the African-American community about health issues, including HIV/AIDS through a variety of communication and preventive methods, 3) perceptions of the African-American community and African-American church ideologies that prevent addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 4) partnering with other organizations and African-American churches to increase awareness of health issues, including HIV/AIDS, and 5) lack of infrastructure and technical support when addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in African-American churches and community. The African-American Church has a responsibility to educate the African-American community about physical, social, and emotional issues by using various forms of education techniques. Additionally, the African-American Church should partner with other churches and organizations to address HIV/AIDS. Ultimately, African-American churches need to discern what is the right capacity for them to be able to address this epidemic in a way that is sensitive to their moral teachings and beliefs, but still be able to educate and talk about sexual behaviors that may be viewed as taboo.