HIV & Religion: How The Church Can Help You Heal

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A religious woman in church wearing a cross necklaceReceiving an HIV-positive diagnosis is very difficult. For some people, the emotional aspects of HIV are as overwhelming as the physical aspects. HIV affects the whole body; physical, emotional, and spiritual. Particularly in the Black community, where church is such an important aspect of life, HIV, religion, and spirituality are often entwined.

Research shows that people seek out religion and spirituality after an HIV diagnosis. In fact, newly diagnosed people report being both more religious, and also feeling alienated from the church. According to one study, people with HIV avoided church services because of prejudices against homosexual men and women, especially in regard to their sexual practices.

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This discomfort results in some people seeking out alternative ways to express their beliefs and spirituality, sometimes by exploring non-Christian religions. Ultimately, if that doesn’t work, people turn to spirituality on a personal level in the form of private prayer or meditation.

Why Me: The Role of Religion & Spirituality in an HIV Diagnosis

After being diagnosed with HIV, a person may ask “why”? For answers, some turn to their family, others talk to doctors or mental health professional. Depending who you talk to, you will get a different answer to this question.

There are different opinions, of course, even within religion itself, due to the differences in how spirituality and religion are defined:

Spirituality – One way of viewing spirituality is that it connects the past to the present. This connection to ancestors, their beliefs, and their practices all guide the present. This school of thought says actions of today are based on lessons learned from the past. In this way, spirituality tends to be unique to each person.

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