More than 70% of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in Africa (Ahn, Grimwood, Schwarzwald, & Herman, 2003), and given limited resources for sustainable interventions many experts look for alternative self sustainable local efforts that can be managed so that affected individuals continue to have some resources as HIV/AIDS funding from foreign sources (i.e., UNAIDS, Global Fund) decreases. It has been argued that linking to the faith community is one such natural option but few neither understand how this can best be done nor is it clearly understood what the major barriers to the operation of such church based programs are and how to spark off such a movement. Anticipated complicating factors for the systematic use of faith based entities to provide HIV/AIDS services and programs are a lack of understanding of experiences churches have to operate such efforts, a lack of current collaboration between churches given denominational differences, and a general lack of readiness to "step up" in this way as many might feel that they have no assets to offer. In general terms, Christian churches have unique characteristics that hold access to "land, people, and history" (Simpson & King, 1999, p. 43), connections (Burkhardt, 1994), relationships (Dyson, Cobb, Forman, 1997), including social, spiritual and political awareness (Stillman, Bone, Rand, Levine, & Becker, 1993), and other resources that might be important to better serving the many needs of those affected by HIV/AIDS.
There is a wide range of empirical data on the role of churches in disease prevention research (Lasater, Wells, Carleton, & Elder, 1986), mammography promotion (Derose, Fox, Reigadas, & Hawes-Dawson, 2000) and screening (Stockdale, Keeler, Duan, Derose, & Fox, 2000), breast cancer screening (Fox, Pitkin, Paul, Carson, & Duan, 1998) and peer counseling (Derose et al., 2000). Thus, churches can serve as avenues for health promotion (Simpson & King, 1999) and specifically for recruiting and training nonprofessionals for behavior change (Stillman et al., 1993). However, little is known about what assets church members believe they need or have for HIV/AIDS prevention and control, including the extent to which they believe they are capable of helping to reduce HIV/AIDS. The purpose of this study was, therefore, to determine what assets churches believed they needed to have to engage in HIV/AIDS prevention and control activities.
This work is a part of a doctoral dissertation supervised by the co-authors of this paper. One of Dr. Modeste's research interests is HIV/AIDS prevention and she has done research internationally within church-based organizations. Dr. Montgomery has also been engaged in similar studies among African-American communities in the United States and schools in South Africa. Dr. Aja has been involved in working with church-based women support networks to develop culturally-oriented assets (i.e., focus group dialogue, drama, song, storytelling, cartoon, and quiz) for communicating women health issues in Nigeria). With the recent focus on the promotion of faith-based health education interventions, we think that information regarding church assets may not only assist health education program administrators or managers in addressing a wide range of health issues but also support them to effectively utilize church assets to plan and deliver cost-effective, appropriate and sustainable health promotion programs to underserved communities. Basically, this study aims to demonstrate the usefulness of isolating church needs and assets for HIV/AIDS prevention and control from the wider community needs and resources.
This study used a qualitative design to obtain data on perceived assets from forum focus groups (Christian churches) in Aba North and Aba South Local Government Areas of Abia State, Nigeria (a local government area is an equivalent of a city in the United States). …