CINCINNATI -- After a University of Cincinnati (UC) study revealed that people living with the HIV virus felt alienated by their churches following diagnosis, researchers began to explore the feelings of religious leaders and congregations about the illness.
Previous research showed among other things that black patients claimed to have become more spiritual and that more white than black patients felt alienated from their religious communities after HIV diagnosis.
Now, Magdalena Szaflarski, PhD, and Joel Tsevat, MD, both researchers at UCs Institute for the Study of Health, have received a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to study how religious organizations respond to HIV/AIDS within their congregations and communities.
The grant will fund a two-year study in which UC researchers will interview clergy from 150 different religious organizations in Greater Cincinnati and compare their responses with 60 HIV/AIDS patients who have or havent felt welcome in their congregations.
"There isnt much research on how churches, synagogues and other places of worship feel about HIV or AIDS, and the research that was done is mostly from the 1980s and 90s," Szaflarski says, adding that the study will describe the current levels of HIV-related involvement on the part of religious organizations and highlight factors shaping religious organizations responses to HIV/AIDS.
"Were interested in seeing the organizations viewpoints," Szaflarski continued. "We want to see if these affiliations can improve levels of support provided to patients with HIV/AIDS and create better quality of life for patients."
In a previous study published in December 2006, Szaflarski, Tsevat and colleagues showed that spirituality and religion play an important role in shaping patients perceptions of living with HIV/AIDS.