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AIDS Educ Prev. 2017 Dec;29(6):503-515. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2017.29.6.503.

HIV Testing, Stigma, and Risk: A Comparison of Church Leaders and Their Congregants.

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Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland.


The involvement of African American churches in HIV testing and prevention is a viable community-based strategy in efforts to reduce rates of HIV among African Americans; however, church members' beliefs and attitudes are often barriers to successful implementation. This study aimed to compare church leaders and congregants regarding HIV testing behaviors, HIV-related stigma, HIV knowledge, and perceived risk. This comparative, cross-sectional study used self-reporting questionnaires across six churches in Baltimore, Maryland. Of the 173 participants (68 leaders, 105 congregants), leaders and congregants had equally high levels of HIV knowledge and equally low levels of HIV stigma, but leaders had higher homosexuality stigma than congregants t(169) = 1.773, p = .039. Congregants had higher perceived HIV risk t(170) = 3.814, p < .001, and were more likely to be tested annually for HIV than leaders, c2(1) = 8.940, p = .002. Given the higher rates of stigma, lower perceived risk and lower likelihood to be tested, interventions should focus on changing the beliefs and behaviors of church leadership to promote implementation of HIV efforts.


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