Researchers and policy planners concerned with HIV prevention increasingly recognize that not only individual factors, but broader structural or contextual factors that influence individual behaviors need to be considered when designing effective HIV interventions. The role of religion and churches as religious organizations (ROs) is particularly salient for African Americans since churches represent well-established and influential institutions in predominantly African American communities. The Black Church, its leaders and congregants are uniquely positioned to influence the values, attitudes, and behaviors of the community. However, the role of the Black Church in the fight against HIV/AIDS is little understood. The goal of the proposed research is to advance our understanding of the role of the Black Church in the fight against HIV/ AIDS, and to refine methodological techniques for studying relationships between religion and HIV in black communities. We propose to conduct a community study of congregations and residents of Harlem in NYC, a predominantly black community.
The aims of the research are to investigate: 1 .What distinguishes churches that are involved in HIV/AIDS activities from those who are not involved? 2. What types of HIV/ AIDS programs have been implemented by activist churches and what determines the specific roles played? Multi-level, multi-method research strategies will be used to understand congregations in community contexts. A phone survey of church leaders will be used to gather information about the universe of Harlem's ROs and their involvement, if any, in HIV related activities. Data from the survey will be used to empirically derive a typology of church AIDS activism. From this classification scheme, a systematic sampling procedure will be used to select 20 churches for in depth study, using a comparative case study approach. This study is unique in comprehensiveness and depth of information that will be available for analysis. Findings from this study will enhance our understanding of the role of religion, ROs, and HIV/AIDS' health determinants.