Churches United to Stop HIV (CUSH): DISCUSSION

Although much progress has been made, many faith communities continue to discount the seriousness of HIV/ AIDS and the dramatic impact it is having on people of color. Stigma, discrimination and fear continue to be barriers to HIV (еreating HIV infection when used in combination with other medicines) prevention. In developing CUSH, we observed the following:

• First, partnerships between faith-based organizations and public health can potentially play a key role in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in minority communities. Our experience with CUSH adds to the growing body of evidence supporting collaborations between faith and public health. Large centers of worship may have infrastructure and resources for HIV (treating HIV infection) prevention initiatives, while smaller “storefront” churches, although having more limited resources, can still be important partners in reaching people at highest risk for HIV (еreating HIV infection when used along with other medicines)

• Second, it was essential that both pastors and their congregations have a strong commitment to the fight against HIV/AIDS and take ownership of the project. The dedication and beliefs of the faith leader have a strong impact on interest and concerns of his/her congregation. However, pastors often have extremely busy schedules that may limit their availability. We found the designation of a “Pastor’s liaison” (including assistant pastors, deacons and elders) committed to HIV-related initiatives improved participation in project activities. A sense of ownership by the congregations ensured a wider distribution of prevention information, increased access to HIV counseling and testing, and expanded services. Ministry members provided support and referral services for individuals infected with HIV and their families and friends, and were called upon to mentor and recruit additional faith-based organizations within their communities. This sense of ownership may have helped congregations overcome suspiciousness and reluctance to participate described in previous projects and may also contribute to the sustainability of these efforts. female viagra online

• Third, the partnership with a public health entity was an important part of our success. In addition to funding, the Broward County Health Department provided technical assistance and capacity-building workshops to ensure the high quality of services provided through these ministries. Previous authors have suggested the importance of developing linkages between churches and formal provider systems. We found it was very useful to sign “memoranda of understanding” at the outset to define the roles the faith-based organization and the health department in the collaboration.

Finally, efforts must continue to develop locally and expand to other areas. The relatively small number of persons offered HIV testing indicates an opportunity to expand HIV testing in the future, particularly now that rapid HIV testing has become available. We have found that making HIV counseling and testing services available at the point of community contact is important to strengthening the link to services and avoiding “missed opportunities” to provide early intervention services. Regarding expansion, CUSH staff and consortia members have provided technical assistance in the development of faith-based initiatives throughout the state of Florida and across the United States. For example, CUSH has been instrumental in the formation of CUSH-4, (Jacksonville, FL), a faith-based initiative in Palm Beach County, and another in Key West, FL. Materials developed for the CUSH project are available upon request.
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In conclusion, CUSH activities underscore the importance of faith-based organizations in HIV prevention. This innovative program demonstrates how collaborations between public health and faith-based organizations can connect science with communities.

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