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Faith groups that helped push for COVID-19 vaccines now hoping to fight against HIV

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Posted at 1:08 PM, Dec 31, 2021

Faith communities have played an integral role in getting more people vaccinated against COVID-19. Now the COVID-19 Prevention Network Faith Initiative is hoping to help in a similar way to fight HIV.

"Faith communities still possess a significant amount of community capital and trust, perhaps maybe more so than the health care systems in communities of color, and so we understand the power within those spaces," said Ulysses Burley, the founder of UBtheCURE.

The new HIV Vaccine Trials Network Faith Initiative will use ambassadors across the country to connect with faith leaders. The goal is to reach Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities of faith.

"We understand those to be the communities that disproportionately lack access to the education, information that they need to make informed decisions about how it is that they interact with our health care system about medicine and clinical trials," Burley said.

Burley says they've seen success getting past mistrust and hesitancy with COVID-19 vaccines by making sure people get information from those they trust in a way that makes sense to them.

The initiative hopes to do the same thing with HIV and get more people into HIV vaccine clinical trials.

"It's not just about sharing information. It's about sharing information in an accessible way specific to the communities that need that information, and that involves a level of what we generally term is cultural competency. But I prefer to expound on that to say cultural humility, where it's not just an understanding of one's culture, but a respect for one's culture," Burley said.

He says clinical trials for an HIV vaccine aren't expected to start in the U.S. for a few more years, but they're hoping to get ahead of the questions that will come up when those trials begin.