Perspectives on Efforts to Address HIV/AIDS of Religious Clergy Serving African American and Hispanic Communities in Utah

Stephen C Alder*, Sara Ellis Simonsen, Megan Duncan, John Shaver, Jan DeWitt, Benjamin Crookston
University of Utah, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, 375 Chipeta Way, Suite A, Salt Lake City, Utah 84105, USA

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2007 Bentham Science Publishers Ltd.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, 375 Chipeta Way, Suite A, Salt Lake City, Utah 84105, USA; E-mail:



The HIV/AIDS epidemic in America is rapidly progressing in certain subpopulations, including African-American and Hispanic communities. Churches may provide a means for reaching high-risk minority populations with effective HIV/AIDS prevention. We report on a series of focus group interviews conducted with Utah clergy who primarily serve African American and Hispanic congregations.


A total of three focus groups (two with Catholic clergy serving Hispanic congregations and one with protestant clergy serving African American congregations) were conducted with eleven participants, lasting approximately two hours each. Each focus group was audio-recorded and transcribed for analysis. Analysis of the data was conducted using a modified grounded theory approach.


There were remarkable similarities in the attitudes and beliefs among all clergy participating in this study regarding HIV/AIDS and church-based prevention programs. All groups expressed concern about the diseases as a global epidemic and reported that the disease is highly preventable. Also, participants indicated a sense of responsibility to address the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS-related prevention, testing and care within their theological framework.


HIV/AIDS prevention and care for the infected are seen as falling within the scope of religious organizations. Openness to expanding efforts in this regard was shared by clergy participating in this study. Approaching religious leaders with tailored approaches that respect the values and practices of their particular religions will be more effective than attempting to impose approaches that do not achieve this standard.

Keywords: HIV/AIDS, clergy, African American, Hispanic.