Voces de Fe y Cultura

Richard Zaldivar, The Wall/Las Memorias
Social and Behavioral

Rates of new HIV infections among Latino bisexual and homosexual men, and heterosexual Latina women are staggering. Among Latinos, clergy and religion have an important role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This one-year study uses innovative, inductive approaches to deepen the understanding of how religion and religious institutional context, coupled with Latino cultural and sexual norms, influence individual attitudes, beliefs, intentions, and behaviors related to HIV risk reduction and prevention. We hypothesize that congregants, working together with their church leaders, will be the catalysts for change toward more open, compassionate dialogues about HIV/AIDS, and more effective approaches to education and prevention within church settings. Therefore, this study seeks to answer the research questions: 1) How does religiosity impact effective HIV prevention strategies among Latino congregants and parishioners in Los Angeles County? And, 2) What denomination-specific and denomination-wide religious-centered strategies should be utilized to influence and inform the dialogue about HIV/AIDS among Latino church- going communities?

An existing partnership between the Los Angeles faith-based community and The Wall-Las Memorias Project, a non-profit organization with a successful history of implementing innovative HIV prevention strategies within Los Angeles, will be leveraged. Faith-based organizations participating in this partnership will serve as the convenience sampling frame and representation from the faith denominations most often practiced among Latinos: Roman Catholic, "mainline" Protestant (Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian and Methodist), and Evangelical (Pentecostal, Covenant, Victory Outreach, and Assemblies of God) will be ensured. This study is innovative in that it broadens the representation historically found in studies involving the faith-based community. The Wall-Las Memorias Project will partner with the National Council of La Raza/California State University, Long Beach Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training to obtain scientific guidance on research design, methods and evaluation. Confidential focus groups will be held with HIV-affected and general congregants (n=126). Additionally, unstructured, in-depth interviews with clergy (n=6) and HIV-infected congregants (n=6) will be conducted. Participants will provide informed consent and study activities will take place in confidential settings outside the church. Interviews and focus groups will be transcribed and Spanish language transcripts will be contextually analyzed. Content analysis of the text will be employed using a template approach. ATLAS-ti will be used to organize the qualitative data. Demographic data collected on participants will be entered into SPSS-PC for calculation of summary statistics. Descriptive analysis will be conducted for the focus group data. This study will inform the construction of a "guide" with suggested approaches to asking questions and raising issues related to HIV risk reduction and prevention within various church settings. The goal of this study is to begin to define a new paradigm or grounded theoretical model(s) from which to embrace and engage the faith-based community in curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic among Latinos. In so doing, findings will contribute to the field of HIV prevention by serving as a foundation from which faith-based intervention models will be constructed in the future.