Putting Faith Into Conversations About HIV in the Southern United States

Oct 19, 2021 4:45 PM ET
Blog

Faith leaders in the Southern United States aren’t strangers to the disproportionate impact HIV has on Black communities. They’ve seen the shame and stigma that people living with HIV in their communities can face, and they recognize how these things can drive secrecy, isolation and lack of treatment. And now, they’re using the pulpit in a call for change.

Gilead has partnered with Caribbean-American filmmaker Sadé Clacken Joseph to create a short film featuring the powerful words of Rev. Deneen Robinson, Rev. Naomi Washington-Leapheart and Sr. Pastor Earle J. Fisher. The three spiritual leaders explore how faith-based communities can support people living with and impacted by HIV through caring, acceptance and inclusion.

Working with faith-based communities to help change the conversation about HIV is central to the Gilead COMPASS Initiative®, a program intended to help eradicate the serious and systemic challenges that contribute to the HIV epidemic in the U.S. South. Earlier this year, Gilead introduced Wake Forest University School of Divinity as its newest partner in the program.

“Preaching plays a central role in worship. A meaningful message from a trusted spiritual leader can not only increase awareness about HIV, but foster healing for the entire faith community,” says Rev. Jonathan Lee Walton, Dean of the School of Divinity. “Faith leaders draw from a deep well of spiritual resources that can inspire hope and transformation.”

The film, like the COMPASS Initiative itself, aims to help increase support for and erase stigma facing people living with and at risk for HIV in the Southern United States. As the faith leaders share in their sermon, we all have a role to play in enacting positive change.