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Faith Groups Work to Reduce Stigma Around HIV Testing


Thursday, March 10, 2022   

Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and one in nine women with HIV are unaware they have it.

Faith leaders in North Carolina are working to reduce stigma around HIV prevention and testing, especially among Black and Hispanic women.

According to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black women make up 58% of diagnoses of HIV infection among women.

Associate Director for Partners in Health and Wholeness at the North Carolina Council of Churches Elizabeth Brewington said faith groups can help communities talk about the issue and provide resources for individuals to take steps toward prevention and treatment.

"We have seen from recent data that the majority of new HIV cases have been in the South," said Brewington. "And we know that, that church is really kind of a place to talk about a lot of different issues."

She added the pandemic has further reduced opportunities to get tested and raise awareness. One study published in the Lancet found HIV testing dropped by 68% to 97% during each state's stay-at-home order period in early 2020.

Brewington said residents can take the Council's online survey to help address concerns and get a sense of how knowledgeable communities are about HIV and programs and resources available in the state.

She added that faith groups can play a lead role in reducing stigma and bias.

"We had a health lead talk about how she took a group of young adults from her church to go get tested for HIV," said Brewington, "and all of them were so nervous that she she just stepped up and got tested anyway to de-stigmatize it for all the young people who were nervous."

According to state data, In 2020, more than one thousand new HIV diagnoses were reported among adult and adolescents, and more than 34,000 people in the state live with the disease.

Disclosure: North Carolina Council of Churches contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment, Health Issues, Immigrant Issues, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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