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Love, Judgement and HIV: Congregants’ Perspectives on an Intervention for Black Churches to Promote Critical Awareness of HIV Affecting Black Canadians

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We assess participants’ experience of Black Pastors Raising Awareness and Insight of Stigma through Engagement (Black PRAISE), an intervention for Black churches to promote critical awareness of HIV affecting Black Canadian communities. We used a community-based participatory approach to implement Black PRAISE among six churches in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa, in October–November 2016. For the intervention, congregants received a booklet with validated HIV-related information, attended a sermon on compassion and justice, viewed a short film on HIV-related stigma, and completed baseline and follow-up surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention. We then conducted in-depth interviews with 18 pastors and congregants from the six churches to explore how they experienced the intervention. Three major themes emerged from an iterative exploration of the thematic content of the interviews: the beneficial impact of the intervention; reconciling the moral and theological issues of their faith with the social reality of HIV and stigma; and perspectives on future stigma reduction efforts. Participants spoke approvingly about Black PRAISE and supported stigma reduction but acknowledged uncertainties about their capacity to actualise their commitment. The main overarching lessons from Black PRAISE are as follows: first, our results support a community-based participatory approach to productively engaging Black congregations in stigma reduction and health promotion; second, promising or successful interventions incorporate multiple components to promote critical awareness about the specific health issue for Black life and wellbeing; and third, interventions are more likely to succeed if they support critical reflection on the underlying conceptual issues, implicit assumptions and belief systems among the professional and lay stakeholders.

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  1. In quotes from the interviews, we identify each speaker as a pastor or congregant, whether they self-identified as male or female, and their age group


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Special thanks to the following: the pastors and congregants; staff and survey assistants and the collaborating agencies; Colin Johnson, George Okoth Otura, Henry Luyombya, Lena Soje, Muluba Habanyama, Tsegaye Bekele and Valérie Pierre-Pierre for their valuable contributions; and other stakeholders who contributed to the development and implementation of Black PRAISE.


The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CBR 135610) and the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network (CTN 297) funded the research. Neither funder is responsible for the content of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Winston Husbands.

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Husbands, W., Nakamwa, J., Tharao, W. et al. Love, Judgement and HIV: Congregants’ Perspectives on an Intervention for Black Churches to Promote Critical Awareness of HIV Affecting Black Canadians. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 8, 507–518 (2021).

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