DC Health held two dinners with about 30 people to discuss the needs of the faith-based community and how its work might intersect with the campaign to end the HIV epidemic. Staff members partnered with DC Health’s Places of Worship Advisory Board to identify participants from various sectors of faith. Discussions were planned and facilitated by DC Health staff and a community stakeholder from this focus population.
The main issues identified for places of worship in the DC area were:
Faith-based community members noted that some still have large congregations, while many smaller places of worship are located in proximity to communities having the greatest health needs, making the faith-based organizations well-positioned to be partners in promoting the health of community residents.
Dwindling membership among faith-based communities has led to a recognition of the need to expand their potential audience for programs and services. Places of worship are interested in increasing their membership and their relevance to the community; health-focused programming, messaging, and partnerships with government to provide health services to residents may provide such opportunities.
Successful health initiatives may take the form of medical fairs, testing days, and health and wellness conferences. Places of worship may even be receptive to hosting public forums pertaining to sexual health.
Any efforts to develop programming about health in partnership with faith-based communities need to carefully account for different beliefs regarding sex, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. Notwithstanding such concerns, participants expressed a desire that the programs they administer be available to everyone.